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While Julien Baker was trying to burn up the fretboard as lead guitarist in her high school rock band Forrister, she was also attempting to exorcise the thoughts of burning in hell that go hand in hand with growing up gay and Christian in Bible Belt Tennessee. “I spent a lot of time alone, poring over scripture and — as I know now — probably misinterpreting it to be fire and brimstone and ‘you’re going to hell,’” Baker told the Indy in a 2016 interview. “But no longer do I think that, which is why it’s so important for me to be open about those subjects.” Now 21, the indie-pop prodigy has taken a stripped-down approach to her solo work. Baker’s elegiac vocals and electric guitar on heart-and-soul-tugging songs like “Vessels” earned the rapt attention of fans who came out for her performance a year ago at the Black Sheep, a venue not known for hosting solo acts. Since then, she’s signed with Matador, toured with the Decemberists, and finished up a sophomore album that’s due for release in October. The upcoming record was tracked at Ardent Studios, home to Big Star and The Replacements, which is a far cry from the garage where she wrote and recorded her critically acclaimed full-length debut Sprained Ankle over the course of two days. God only knows whether Baker will achieve the goal she set out for herself in that album’s title track, which opens with the line “Wish I could write songs about something other than death.” Either way, they’ll be well worth hearing.