Julia Jacklin

Julia Jacklin

Julia Jacklin thought she'd be a social worker.

Growing up in the Blue Mountains to a family of teachers, Jacklin discovered an avenue to art at the age of 10, thanks to an unlikely source: Britney Spears.

Jacklin chanced upon a documentary about the pop star while on family holiday. "By the time Britney was 12 she'd achieved a lot," says Jacklin."I remember thinking, 'Shit, what have I done with my life? I haven't achieved anything.' So I was like, 'Mum, as soon as we get home from this holiday I need to go to singing lessons.'

Classical singing lessons were the only kind in the area, but Jacklin took to it. Voice control was crucial, and Jacklin flourished. But the lack of expression had the teen seeking substance, and she wound up in a high school band, "wearing surf clothing and doing a lot of high jumps" singing Avril Lavigne and Evanescence covers. It wasn't much but she was hooked.

Jacklin's second epiphany came after high school. Travelling in South America she reconnected with high school friend and future foil Liz Hughes. The two returned home to the Blue Mountains and started a band, bonding over a love of indie-Appalachian folk trio Mountain Man and the songs Hughes was writing.

"I would just sing," says Jacklin. "But as I got my confidence I started playing guitar and writing songs. I wouldn't be doing music now if it wasn't for Liz or that band. I never knew it was something I could do. "

Inspired, Jacklin began educating herself. From Fiona Apple she learned to be bold with words; from Anna Calvi, the cut and presence of electric guitar; and from Angel Olsen, that interpretation triumphs over technique. Now living in a garage in Glebe and working a day job on a factory production line making essential oils, the 25-year old found time to hone her craft – to examine her turns of phrase, to observe the stretching of her friendship circles, to wonder who she was and who she might become. That document is Jacklin's masterful debut album, Don't Let The Kids Win – an intimate examination of a life still being lived.

Recorded at New Zealand's Sitting Room studios with Ben Edwards (Marlon Williams, Aldous Harding, Nadia Reid), Don't Let The Kids Win courses with the aching current of alt-country and indie-folk, augmented by Jacklin's undeniable calling cards: her rich, distinctive voice, and her playful, observational wit.

You can hear it in opener 'Pool Party', a gorgeous lilt bristling with Jacklin's tale of substance abuse by the pool; in the sparse, 'Elizabeth', wrestling with both devotion and admonishment of a friend; in detailing the slow-motion banality of a relationship breakdown in the woozy 'L.A Dreams'; and in her resolve to accept the passing of time on the snappy fuzz of 'Coming Of Age'. The album hums with peripheral insights, minute in their moments but together proving an urge to stay curious.

"I thought it was going to be a heartbreak record," says Jacklin of Don't Let The Kids Win. "But in hindsight I see it's about hitting 24 and thinking, 'What the fuck am I doing?' I was feeling very nostalgic for my youth. When I was growing up I was so ambitious: I'm going to be this amazing social worker, save the world, a great musician, fit, an amazing writer. Then you get to mid-20s and you realise you have to focus on one thing. Even if it doesn't pay-off, or you feel embarrassed at family occasions because you're the poor musician still, that's the decision I made."

In person Jacklin is funny, wry, quick to crack a joke. It makes the blunt honesty and prickly insight laced through her songwriting disarming, a dissonance she delights in. "Especially coming from my family," says Jacklin. "They don't talk about feelings at all. I love writing songs about them and watching them listen and squirm. To me that's great. I enjoy it."

The title track was the last song Jacklin wrote for the album. "My sister's getting married soon," she says of the closer. "And it hit me – we used to be two young girls and now that part of our lives is over. Seeing her talking about wanting to have a baby and…it's like, man I can't believe we're already here."

Don't mistake this awareness for nostalgia. "It's not that I want to go back to that time at all," says Jacklin. "It's trying to figure out how to be responsible when you don't identify with who you were anymore."

"All my friends at this age are freaking out. Everyone's constantly talking about being old. "Don't Let The Kids Win" is saying yeah we're getting older but it's not so special. It's not unique. Everyone has dealt with this and it's going to keep feeling weird. So I'm freaking out about it too but that song is trying to convince myself: let's live now and just be old when we're old."

Hand Habits

Meg Duffy hasn't stopped moving, working, or growing since she left her quiet childhood home in upstate New York. You can find her in the back of the van reading a book, quietly warming up backstage with some guitar workouts, or waiting tables at a neighborhood pizzeria. Though Meg didn't pick up the instrument until she was seventeen years old, her intuitive, naturalistic musicality and commitment to the craft of guitar playing have made an in demand collaborator and guitarist for countless indie acts (Kevin Morby, Mega Bog, Weyes Blood) and kept her between the road and the studio for almost three straight years. Like much of the richest art, Meg's LP debut Wildy Idle (Humble Before the Void) (Woodsist 2017) ​is many things at once. The record is a collection of songs written amidst the constant motion of touring, recording, and working part-time jobs; recorded at home in North East LA between other commitments, around the sounds of roommates cooking breakfast, and dogs pattering though an old craftsman house. Layered with Duffy's signature extended guitar techniques, poems read by friends, and musical contributions from contemporaries like Keven Lareau (Quilt), Avi Buffalo, Sheridan Riley, and others, the album combines striking visual storytelling and compelling melody with a deceptively light touch. Drawing on diverse influences ranging from novelist Iris Murdoch to Phil Elverum's seminal work under his Microphones moniker, this album is more than the sum of its parts. Like a folded paper fortune teller, each listen reveals a new, hidden truth about living, working, and falling in and out of love buried in the quietly beating heart of the record. Dark, pulsing tracks like the intoxicating "Bad Boy" sit comfortably beside sunny strummers like "All The While" with its bouncing bass line and beguiling lyrics. The thread that runs through all these songs is Duffy's voice, in turns languid and sweet, and always telling a story. Mixed and mastered by contemporary electronic music maestro M. Geddes Gengras, the result is an LP as hypnotic as Hand Habit's impossibly immersive live set, and filled with the same engaging blend of wild improvisation and perfect restraint. Expansive, atmospheric arrangements punctuated with intricate melodic details. This record is indoor music at its finest: listen in the morning, in bed with your partner, in the kitchen while you make coffee, at night when you read on the porch.

Christian Lee Hutson

Whoever the gallantly self-defeating 24-year-old singer/songwriter is, he's an amalgamation of a long line of Americana tradition, a packed handful of unpleasant days, and his own past musical endeavors, including 2012's EP Will Never Break Up, and his debut LP, The Hell With It.

Now, after a song-a-month release over the course of 2014 comes Hutson's second album Yeah Okay, I Know, a record championed by Americana UK's James McCurry as "...Startlingly good. Like 'year's end list' good." Yeah Okay, I Know captures twelve songs from the rapidly-evolving King of Bummercore, with all his youthful regrets, laments, and apathy worn unabashedly on his sleeve.

Hutson's search for self spills from his records onto the road in a relentless touring schedule across the States and throughout Europe, where the prolific songster's perpetually unveiling new tunes and discovering new ways to take shots at himself. Like Sean Moeller says in Paste Magazine, "He will change you. Go see him tonight."

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