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15 of Julien Baker’s most awesome covers and collaborations

Julien Baker at Town Hall
Julien Baker at Town Hall in 2017 (more by Chelsea Pineda)

In addition to releasing two great albums, 2015’s Sprained Ankle and 2017’s Turn Out the Lights, Julien Baker has a real knack for covering songs and collaborating with other artists (and sometimes doing both at once). She frequently works with both her influences and her peers, and whenever she takes on someone else’s song, she makes it sound like it could be one of her own. Her covers and collaborations are just as worth hearing as the songs on her albums, so we’ve compiled some of our favorite ones all in one place, right here:

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Manchester Orchestra & Julien Baker – “Bad Things To Such Good People” (Pedro the Lion cover)

“I had just never heard a band that sounded like that, that was musically so anthemic and powerful but could also be so delicate. Those songs resonated with me emotionally in a way few things had before,” Julien Baker told UPROXX about Manchester Orchestra last year. The influence can certainly be felt — the title track of 2017’s Turn Out the Lights borrows some guitar from Manchester Orchestra’s “I Can Feel A Hot One” — so it should be no surprise that it sounded absolutely gorgeous when Julien Baker and Manchester Orchestra combined their talents. They covered Pedro the Lion, a band who surely influenced both Manchester and Julien, and the just-released cover (which partially inspired us to make this list) is a benefit single for the 1 Million 4 Anna foundation. It’s an atmospheric, piano-fueled rendition that puts a really unique twist on the original, and is a real treat to listen to. Speaking of Julien Baker and Manchester Orchestra…

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Julien Baker – “100 Dollars” (Manchester Orchestra cover)

…Julien Baker not only worked with Andy Hull, she also regularly covers one of his songs. The original “100 Dollars” is one of Manchester Orchestra’s most stripped-down, bare-bones songs, so it makes sense that it’s the one Julien decided to take on, since her own songwriting is cut from a similar cloth. When she starts yelling the “I am fine, I am fine, I am completely fine!” part, try not to get shivers.

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Julien Baker – “Accident Prone” (Jawbreaker cover)

Julien Baker doesn’t write punk songs, but she tours and collaborates with punk bands, used to be on a punk label, and has a real punk ethos, so it makes sense that she takes cues from Jawbreaker (who are finally touring again). It also makes sense that she has the ability to turn this distorted guitar-centric song into a melancholic piano ballad. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve listened to the original, you’ve never heard it like this. Jawbreaker must like it too — they included it during the end credits of their new documentary.

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Julien Baker – “Ballad of Big Nothing” (Elliott Smith cover)

Probably any artist in the last 20 years that plays personal, quiet music is influenced by Elliott Smith, so it’s no surprise that Julien is too. She contributed this cover to the 2016 Elliott Smith tribute album and her version of it is a real winner. Elliott Smith’s music already sounds sad, and somehow, Julien makes it sound even sadder. Oh, and it gets even sadder (aka better)…

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Julien Baker & Phoebe Bridgers – “Ballad of Big Nothing” (Elliott Smith cover)

…not only did Julien cover “Ballad of Big Nothing” on her own, she did it as a collaboration with her equally talented and equally sad-core friend (and past tourmate) Phoebe Bridgers. When they start harmonizing together, it’s truly stunning.

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Julien Baker – “Nothing Better (The Postal Service cover)

This was uploaded to YouTube in 2010, five years before Julien released her debut album, and it was clear even then how talented she was. Julien did this one really quietly, more like she was playing it to herself than for an audience, but you can still hear her unmistakable voice coming through and her slow, folky arrangement is a nice contrast to the faster, synth-ier original. Fast-forward seven years…

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Ben Gibbard & Julien Baker – “Photobooth” (Death Cab for Cutie song)

…and Julien is on stage with Mr. Postal Service himself, Ben Gibbard. Before that, Julien had covered Death Cab for Cutie’s “Photobooth” for The A.V. Club Undercover, and sadly that video has been taken down. But Ben must have seen it before it got deleted, because he invited Julien to do the song on stage with him when they toured together. They do it as a duet, with Julien taking the second verse and then harmonizing with Ben on the chorus. It’s great.

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Frightened Rabbit – “How It Gets In” (ft. Julien Baker)

Like with Manchester Orchestra, people who listened to emotional indie rock in the late 2000s could not avoid Frightened Rabbit (whose Midnight Organ Fight was one of the dominant albums of its kind at the time), and something tells me that Julien Baker was no exception. Their sad, personal songs scratch a similar itch to Julien’s, and it was like a dream come true when Frabbit invited Julien to duet and sing harmonies on “How It Gets In” for the band’s 2017 EP Recorded Songs. It’s a quieter song as far as Frightened Rabbit’s recent music goes, which makes it a perfect song to have Julien on, and “How It Gets In” fully lives up to the anticipation.

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Julien Baker – “Thirteen” (Big Star cover)

Big Star are one of the most influential bands on alternative music of all time, and they’ve had their music interpreted in several different ways by several different artists. Julien joins that list with a live rendition of “Thirteen” that adds even more melancholy to what was already one of the more melancholic songs on the band’s 1972 debut. She barely strums her acoustic guitar, she holds out her notes extra long, and the whole thing will have you leaning towards your speaker to hear every detail.

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Julien Baker – “Badlands” (Bruce Springsteen cover)

If you heard Julien Baker was taking on a Springsteen song, you might’ve thought she’d do something off Nebraska, but when she covered The Boss backstage at Newport Folk Fest 2016, she went for Darkness On The Edge Of Town opener “Badlands.” Naturally, she turns it into something much more stripped-down than the original. In Julien’s hands, “Badlands” is a strummy, folky, acoustic number, and it’s awesome.

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Julien Baker – “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” (Hank Williams cover)

Hank Williams’ classic “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” has influenced sad music for decades, but the original doesn’t sound nearly as sad as the song does when Julien Baker plays it. She slows it down, applies her usual electric-guitar-vocals-and-nothing-else approach to it, and would have you thinking it’s one of her own songs if you didn’t know any better.

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Julien Baker & Adam Torres – “One Of Us” (Joan Osborne cover)

A lot of Julien’s covers are of songs that you might expect her to take on, but if you find this Joan Osborne mid-’90s power ballad a little unexpected of Julien, it’s worth noting that she apparently did this cover on a dare. Still, she managed to turn the song into a delicate, bare-bones song that pairs well with her originals. She performed this one as a duet with Adam Torres, whose own voice is powerful and distinct like Julien’s, and together they pull off some pretty impressive harmonies.

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Touche Amore – “Skyscraper” (ft. Julien Baker)

Touche Amore and Julien Baker both started out on the small punk label 6131 (Touche are now on Epitaph and Julien is now on Matador), and when Touche Amore decided to start incorporating clean singing on their devastating fourth album Stage Four, they got some help from their fellow former 6131 artist. Jeremy Bolm channels his inner Matt Berninger for his baritone delivery on this song, with Julien complementing him beautifully in her upper register, and it sounds even more powerful when Jeremy goes back to his trademark scream but Julien stays in soaring, clean mode. It’s the last song on Stage Four, and it’s a hell of an end to one of the most heartbreaking rock albums in recent memory.

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Julien Baker & Sharon Van Etten – “Good News”

No matter how famous and busy she gets in her music and acting career, Sharon Van Etten still makes it a point to go catch promising new artists when they tour through NYC, and sometimes she even sings with them. That happened when Julien Baker played Bowery Ballroom in 2016 and Sharon was in the house to add backing harmonies to Julien’s song “Good News.” Words don’t exist to describe how wonderful they sounded together that night.

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Kevin Devine & Julien Baker – “No One Says You Have To”

Kevin Devine is an elder statesman of indie rock, punk, and emo at this point, and he always has his ear to the ground for new acts. He’s often touring, collaborating, and doing splits with new artists he likes, and one of those was Julien Baker, who Kevin took on tour in 2016. While they were on the road together, Julien joined KD on stage to add harmonies when he played “No One Says You Have To.” It’s a more minor moment than some of the others on this list, but just as worth hearing.

ALSO: Not only does Julien cover lots of notable artists, but lots of notable artists have covered Julien’s music, including Dashboard Confessional, Thrice singer Dustin Kensrue, Brand New, and Cameron Boucher (who also contributed to Turn Out the Lights), who has covered Julien as a solo artist and with his band Sorority Noise.

What’s your favorite Julien Baker cover and/or collaboration? Did we miss any good ones?

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