Without a doubt, the best things to have ever come from Australia are the Hemsworth Brothers, H20:Just Add Water and Julia Jacklin. Not everyone might feel the same though, and for that reason I would be willing to debate the former two, but let me make it clear that the last one is not up for debate at all.
No stranger to three chords and the truth, Jacklin’s alternative country has been rocking everyone like wagon wheel since her first album in 2016. With music that mirrors the vast and water - suffocated Outback, the stuffed-full-of-sweat cities and the beautiful lifeline of colour in the Great Barrier Reef, Jacklin gently tickles the thinly stretched elastic and fragile strings of your blood - sucking heart with her gentle lullabies for emotional adults. Verse after verse and chorus after chorus, on and on, she plays as if she’s planning her funeral a week from now and this is her final encore until she reaches heaven.
But Jacklin’s not going anywhere anytime soon (other than on tour)! With the release of her third album at the end of August, there has been a well-deserved hype around the new and fresh sound coming through on her new work. Each of her albums is quite the emotional undertaking to listen to and so imagining the emotional undertaking it takes to write, record and play each song live makes listening to her music look easy. Arguably the most capturing thing about each of Jacklin’s songs, is her utterly beautiful voice. Like an opera singer carrying the weight of a heavy aria on their shoulders, the range and intensity of emotion that Jacklin manages to resonate through her voice is incredible. Her commitment to expressing and her skilled ability to express the feeling of each story, each song and each line. As a classically trained singer herself, Jacklin understands that lyrics are not the only way of showing emotion in music. Your voice, the oldest instrument known to mankind, is also a tool for showing and not just telling. So often in classical vocal pieces, such as opera arias, the lyrics or text is in a completely different language to the language understood by the general audiences listening and watching. For example, you might have an audience of native modern-English speakers watching an opera entirely in 18th century German or French.
Nowadays they display the text on a screen above the stage or it is included in the opera programme, however if you’re listening to a good opera singer, you almost shouldn’t need to read the text in order to gain a general understanding of what they are singing about. Of course, expressing emotion through facial expressions is important in order to relay a message to an audience but given the extra power of the voice, the emotion expressed can become at an intensity which sends chills through your spine and fixes your eyes on the stage without a single blink escaping from your eye- lids.
Being captured in a heavenly-heartache chokehold by Jacklin’s transcendent vocals is more common than uncommon. In an interview discussing Jacklin’s voice on the track ‘Good Guy’, Parks described the vocals in the song as featuring “a kind of brokenness and sense of defeat”. In her own cover of the song, Parks makes a particular effort to bring out and mirror that defeat and deflation on the original recording. With her own tender voice, Parks does not fail to capture the intrigue and attention of listeners. The smoothness and silkiness with which she holds the gliding melody, is elevated by the clean- cut harmonic and rhythmic interactions with the other musicians in the band. Together the sound they create is as sweet and as soft as eating meringues shaped like puffy white clouds.
Other than eating a meringue, there isn’t really anything very fancy going on in this cover. But there doesn’t have to be for it to be a good cover. Just the way the Hemsworth brothers and the corny mermaid tv show (H20:Just add water) are up for debate, what makes a ‘good’ cover is also up for debate. However I think there is a universally general idea of what makes a good cover. Summarised in three words; originality, authenticity and appreciation is what makes a good cover. Let me explain briefly. In a good cover you want; originality that brings a necessary freshness and diligent uniqueness, authenticity to tell a story with a delicate truth and above all, appreciation that comes from a place of humility and is triggered by complete musical respect, adoration and love. But enough about that. All that’s a conversation for another article.
Julia Jacklin’s third album - ‘Pre Pleasure’, was released last month on vinyl, CD and on all streaming platforms. Jacklin begins the American-leg of her ‘Pre Pleasure’ tour tomorrow in Nashville, Tennessee.
Arlo Parks’ cover of ‘Good Guy’ is available to listen to on the Triple J Like A Version Youtube and Spotify.