Powerhouse singer/songwriter Julien Baker has shared the opening track from her third album Little Oblivions, due out on Feb. 26 via Matador Records. “Hardline” debuted Wednesday alongside its music video, directed by Joe Baughman.
Baker says of her new single’s stop-motion visual:
A few years ago I started collecting travel ephemera again with a loose idea of making a piece of art with it. I had been touring pretty consistently since 2015 and had been traveling so much that items like plane tickets and hotel keycards didn’t have much novelty anymore. So I saved all my travel stuff and made a little collage of a house and a van out of it. I wanted to incorporate it into the record and when we were brainstorming ideas for videos we came across Joe Baughman and really liked his work so we reached out with the idea of making a stop-motion video that had similar aesthetic qualities as the house I built did. I don’t know why I have the impulse to write songs or make tiny sculptures out of plane tickets. But here it is anyway: a bunch of things I’ve collected and carried with me that I’ve re-organized into a new shape.
Baughman adds of “Hardline”:
Even after having spent 600 hours immersed in “Hardline” and having listened to it thousands of times, I am still moved by it. It was a fun and ambitious challenge creating something that could accompany such a compelling song. The style of the set design, inspired by a sculpture that Julien created, was especially fun to work in. I loved sifting through magazines, maps, and newspapers from the ‘60s and ‘70s, and finding the right colors, shapes and quotes to cover almost every surface in the video.
“Hardline” is quite compelling indeed, beginning Baker’s new record on an ambitious note, with staccato organ chords, heavy strings and synth accents wreathing the singer’s characteristically confessional vocals (“Start asking for forgiveness in advance / All the future things I will destroy”). Percussion of both analog and digital varieties picks up the song’s momentum as Baker barrels towards a dark inevitability: “I’m telling my own fortune / Something I cannot escape / I can see where this is going, but I can’t find the brake.”
The powerful track is only Baker’s second single off Little Oblivions, following “Faith Healer,” which she shared upon the album’s announcement in October 2020. She recently played that track on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert—we’ve included her performance down below.
Paste recently highlighted Little Oblivions among our most-anticipated albums of 2021, praising Baker’s new set of songs as “more fearless than ever, with instrumental scope to match that of their overwhelming emotions.”
Listen to “Hardline” below, and find Baker’s 2016 Paste Studio session and Late Show performance of “Faith Healer” further down.