Published Oct 07, 2016It may come as a bit of a surprise to find that, given the strength and clarity of her debut album Don't Let the Kids Win, Australia's Julia Jacklin hasn't actually been making music all that long. Jacklin manages to rouse quite a number of emotions across these 11 tunes, including steady slow-burners, unconventional lyrics paired with bright guitars, hushed, soft singing and grungier moments here and there.
Despite the mismatch of styles that Kids offers, the album's sights remain clearly set on matters of the heart, contemplation and nostalgia. The various ways that Jacklin puts these feelings into motion through song proves how far-reaching her abilities are, one moment nearly sing-shouting about wondering if her new lover feels the same love that she does, the next acknowledging that she's "gonna keep on getting older" and that "it's gonna keep on feeling strange." This is an album of life lessons learned.
If comparisons must be made, Jacklin toes the line between Angel Olsen and Jenny Lewis, vocally and lyrically. One could even toss Courtney Barnett into that mix, another Australian that pens cheeky and clever lines. Moments of her guitar playing shadow those of Bert Jansch (the tone and picking technique in "Sweet Step" and "Elizabeth").
Jacklin's lyrics mustn't be overlooked. Whether it be her neat wordplay ("I didn't see it coming, my coming of age," she sings on the fuzzy "Coming of Age," which brings to mind Olsen's "Hi-Five; she brags that "I cost more than you earn" in "Leadlight"), to amusing moments ("Zach Braff, you look just like my dad back when I thought I had the best one / But you're too young to be a father to me," she sings on the waltzy "Small Talk").
Heartbreak, certainly the album's foremost theme, is also expressed in offbeat ways. "L.A. Dream" opens with the line, "Why'd you go to the grocery store on the day you planned to leave? You left me here with all this food my body does not need." "Pool Party" speaks to being disheartened by a lover's drug use, "Coming of Age" finds her recognizing that she's getting older and being caught off-guard by that (the 25-year-old had been working in a factory before realizing that she had music to make). "Same Airport, Different Dress" is a sombre cut, classically country in an almost traditional Appalachian murder ballad sense, though dealing with lost love and disappointment, rather than revenge and death.
Let's hope that Jacklin continues to pen songs that speak to her experience in such a refreshing and curious way, rather than slowly becoming jaded with age. Time will tell, but so far it's been kind to her, providing her with relatable material that she's offered up generously on Don't Let the Kids Win. (Polyvinyl)