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REVIEW: Julia Jacklin Makes Normal Life Sparkle on Debut Record

There is something distinctly, uniquely normal about Australian indie. It doesn’t try to dazzle you with theatrics, it keeps its parts simple and the songs are often characterised by the experiences of everyday life, as opposed to the hypothetical fantasies.

The same can be said about Julia Jacklin‘s debut record Don’t Let The Kids In, with each song reminding the listener that despite all our dreams and aspirations, life just takes its natural course, and that’s fine. Opening tracks Pool Party and Leadlight capture this sentiment, with the former echoing a sentiment that is all too relatable for many; “My heart is heavy when you’re high, so for me why won’t you try?”

Jacklin doesn’t try to dazzle on her first outing. Rather, she attempts to win the listener over through simple, honest songwriting. Elizabeth comes after the bombastic Coming Of Age and sits beautifully within the scope of the record, stripping away her backing band and leaving Jacklin exposed and unfiltered- a bold move in her opening statement to the music world.

Jacklin’s willingness to pull away the covers and present herself as she is, is really what characterises most of Don’t Let The Kids In. Motherland begins with Jacklin casually strumming an electric guitar and crooning reflective lyrics of nostalgia and regret, before the song slowly builds around a steady drum groove, somehow amplifying the effect of the vocals. What Jacklin does well on this song and the album as a whole, is avoiding the trap of cramming too much instrumentation into the arrangements, often used to overcompensate for being a solo artist. Small Talk shows the effectiveness of a simple structure, with the song built around two simple guitar chords, steadily marching towards a solitary end rather than building unnecessarily.

Admittedly, Jacklin’s take on alternate country won’t please everyone. The middle section of the album may feel repetitive to some, with soft, sparse ballads making up the bulk of the record. However, focusing on how the album sits together can cause the listener to miss the true highlights, found within the dynamic awareness and vocal control of each song. Sweet Step takes a plucked guitar line and combines it with the folky delivery of Jacklin and tender electric leads, resulting in a beautiful cascade of tender sounds. Hayplain, on the other hand, centres around a rhythmic shuffle, leaving space for the electric guitar and atmospheric build. The song reaches its climax with multilayered harmonies singing tales of travel and the uncertainty it brings.

The song would have been the perfect note to end on, with just a hint of triumph, but as I mentioned at the start of this review, Jacklin isn’t in the game for theatrics. The title track closes out this record, serving as another solo cut as if to remind the listener that Jacklin is focused on being perceived how she is; as a single entity, no musical extras attached.

Don’t Let The Kids In is a tender, whimsical collection of stories and thoughts on the ups and downs of life. It is a down-to-earth examination on what makes us feel things that we don’t always want to feel. Feels man. It’s hard to digest in one sitting, but when pulled apart, each song here serves a purpose and displays the enormous potential if an exciting new talent putting Australia on the map.

Check out what has inspired Jacklin over the course of her career so far when she shared with us which three albums that changed her life.

Image: Supplied