Being forced to reassess your own expectations is pretty much inevitable, even if you’re a baby boomer, and definitely if you’re any of the subsequent generations. Julia Jacklin thought Don’t Let The Kids Win was going to be a heartbreak record.
But then she also thought she was going to become a social worker. Jacklin neatly summarises this epoch as: ‘What the fuck am I doing?’ Luckily for us, what the fuck Jacklin did was write an album.
Julia Jacklin’s Don’t Let The Kids Win is a stunning debut album exploring the moment when your own overblown childhood ambition finally bumps up against reality.
It turns out that, in a bizarre and unexpected way, we have Britney Spears to thank for the decision. Aged 10, Jacklin chewed over the impressive resume Spears had built up even by age 12, worrying that she hadn’t achieved enough herself.
Instead of making a doona cocoon and hoping it’d all figure itself out, Jacklin got singing lessons, joined a high school band, and sang Avril Lavigne and Evanescence covers, punctuated by high jumps. When high school ended, she started another band, united by a mutual love of indie-Appalachian folk band Mountain Man.
Right through from opener Pool Party, which stitches together a tale of substance abuse, to the title track inspired by her soon-to-be married sister, Jacklin’s debut is cement by frank insights of those twenty-something moments.
Think relationship breakdowns in LA Dreams, friendships in Elizabeth, and the contentious effort to endure the passing of time in Coming of Age. Sure the record bruises with metamorphosis, but it manages to do this without collapsing into nostalgia. And there’s no diary angst either: the lyrics are very much tongue-in-cheek and deliberately written to tease.
Jacklin has openly admitted she loves writing songs about family members to watch them squirm, but the vocals come so witty and rich, you couldn’t hold the embarrassment against her.
Amongst all the warmth and honesty of Jacklin’s words, Don’t Let The Kids Win tips you gently through a series of rhythmic, folk-driven soundscapes, from the hazy rush of alt-country Coming of Age to the lilting, stripped back Motherland.
It a seduction of sorts: one that rocks you in the shade of intimate Hayplain, and hypnotises you with the lonely sway of Same Airport. Instrumentals are considered and textured – woozy like an indie film soundtrack but without becoming a cliché, memorising but never bleak: the perfect backdrop to accepting life.
What Jacklin’s telling us, ultimately, is that growing up and freaking out about it is something that’s already been done by everyone before, and will be by everyone after – that life’s never going to stop feeling weird. But as long as there’s some of her wry humour around to help us along with it, we’ll definitely be okay.
Don’t Let The Kids Win is out tomorrow.
Check out Julia Jacklin on our list of best new Australian bands in 2016.