Release Date: Oct 7, 2016
Record label: Polyvinyl
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Alternative Country-Rock, Indie Folk
By her own admission, Julia Jacklin is a nostalgic soul. The danger of looking through a rose tinted lens for too long is that fatalism can take hold..
The debut album from Julia Jacklin was trailed by an ear-catching single called Coming of Age, in which Jacklin, over cheerily grungey backing, announced: “I gotta find myself a girl / Who makes my straight toes curl. ” It proved to be a bit of a red herring, because this isn’t a straightahead indie-rock album: the instrumentation is often sparse, and the mood subdued. But the themes of Coming of Age – seizing the possibilities of life, and the consequences of growing older (albeit from the perspective of a 25-year-old, rather than someone confronting mortality) run through her impressive debut album.
Don’t Let the Kids Win is the debut of Australian singer/songwriter Julia Jacklin, who skillfully laces elements of alternative country-rock and early rock into haunting indie folk vignettes. Smoky vocals, discontent, and a presence that's mature beyond her twenty-something years suffuse the album with the character of a life hard-lived. That spirit is almost literal on the song "Same Airport, Different Man," a weary, single-verse rumination that ends with her deciding to try the train next time.
Hailing from Australia’s Blue Mountains (just a few syllables apart from Dolly Parton’s own beloved smoky blue mountains) Julia Jacklin, strangely, has a few things in common with country music’s most glamorous flag bearer. Before turning her hand to music, Jacklin worked 9 to 5, oddly enough, in an essential oils factory. And though you’re unlikely to catch her storming around in rhinestone-smattered clad cowboy boots any time soon, her debut ‘Don’t Let The Kids Win’ exhibits the sort of instantaneous ear for melody which would have Dolly pantomime thigh-slapping with pride.
On the face of it, Julia Jacklin is an oxymoron. For an artist hailing from the Australian suburbs, you might not expect her sound to be so imbued with the spirit of the American south, but Jacklin’s debut Don’t Let The Kids Win is exactly that. It’s an album that owns much more to Dolly Parton than it does to Courtney Barnett. But this doesn’t mean Jacklin is simply hedging her bets in the hope of harnessing a commodified state-side audience and riding the current wave of Antipodean musicians, commanded by the likes of Nadia Reid, breaking US soil.
Though only her debut, Julia Jacklin’s Don’t Let the Kids Win works like a musical punch to the gut, a tearjerker that makes even the most public of spaces ready sobbing spots. Each of the album’s 11 songs sounds effortlessly polished, her voice seasoned with the emotion of an entire lifetime. Jacklin takes elements of the whip-smart lyrics of fellow Australian Courtney Barnett, the evocative musicality of Angel Olsen, Sharon Van Etten’s confessional poetry, and Jessica Pratt’s mesmerizing melodies — the mosaic of strengths made fresh by a unique perspective.
It 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.
Inspired improbably by Britney Spears, Australian Julia Jacklin shares little with the “Toxic” star apart from a talent to sing well-crafted pop songs. Single “Coming Of Age” is a jaunty trip into a ’90s groove and the song showcases her almost-drawling vocal style. Clearly not a girl who wants to try too hard – this is one seriously good song.