Julien Baker grapples with vices & relapse on newest song, ‘Faith Healer’

‘Faith Healer’ is the first taste of Julien Baker’s next album, and it’s wonderful; as thoughtful and honest as ever, as the singer-songwriter explores more musical textures.

Snake oil traders is a term that dates back as far as the Californian Gold Rush period of the 1840’s and 50’s in the U.S. These people had a “miracle” cure-all product that was anything but; fooling ignorant and desperate customers out of pocket. In part, Julien Baker’s latest track addresses the mindset of these kinds of people, attributing them as deceptive modern-day drug-dealers who provide the scratch for their users’ itch, knowing that it’ll only hurt these people even more so. Using those individuals when they’re at their most vulnerable, tired and isolated, as we see from the four characters in the below music video.

Faith Healer‘ talks about how easy it can be for relapses to occur; whether back into drug use, or into other forms of vices and addictions. About those sadly stuck in trying to find the next high, no matter what it costs them. (The intro: “Oh, what I wouldn’t give if it would take away the sting a minute. Everything I love, I trade it in. To feel it rush into my chest.”) More than that, it’s about the “faith healers” – those untrustworthy snake oil salesmen – who peddle their own healing or recovery methods, but are only enabling the user and their pain. Something Julien runs with further as an allegory for mental, emotional or spiritual healing; religious leaders enabling a kind of placebo effect with their “healing hands” as they take advantage of those who are lost and in need of assistance. (The chorus: “Faith healer, come put your hands on me. A snake oil dealer. I’ll believe you if you make me feel something.”)

Like many other songs of hers, it’s a metaphor that’s multi-faceted, delivered in a way that’s clear and concise, but can be related back to the listener’s own experience without being too generalised. A highly effective lyrical and songwriting tool that the Tennessee artist is adept in; why her last album, 2017’s masterful ‘Turn Out The Lights‘ was and is so touching.

Much like her 2019 dual-single release of ‘Sucker Punch‘ and ‘Tokyo,’ ‘Faith Healer‘ sees Julien exploring new instrumental textures. (With most of the instruments written and recorded by her as well.) No longer resting with piano, guitar and her vocals, this first taste of her next record is dotted with more layers, percussion, various effects; showing her musicality and arrangements are growing and maturing along with Julien herself.

Julien’s third album, ‘Little Oblivions,’ is out February 26th, 2021 and could very well be an early AOTY contender for next year. And I hope I am right.

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