What does a quarter-life crisis actually sound like? Julia Jacklin’s debut record has to at least be a close approximation. The Australian singer-songwriter took the decision, bright-eyed and not long out of school, to eschew the real world in favour of pursuing a career in music in her teens, but by the time she came to record ‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’, she found herself frustrated, disillusioned and stuck in a menial day job whilst her kid sister was doing the grown-up stuff: settling down, getting married.
That context is crucial because it’s Jacklin’s emotional state that makes this record such a triumph; there is a quite brilliant balance between nervous urgency, the realisation that something needs to happen soon, and measured perfectionism, born out of the knowledge that if this is her one shot, it better be the best it can be.
‘Pool Party’ and ‘LA Dream’ are exercises in softly soulful pop, ‘Sweet Step’ leans on pretty, melodic acoustic guitar, and the murky atmospherics of ‘Same Airport, Different Man’ put Jacklin’s formidable storytelling skills front and centre. Underpinning it all is her achingly sad vocal delivery, which oozes conviction throughout.
Jacklin cites Angel Olsen as a major influence (although there are some Ryan Adams melodies in there, too), and ‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’ should not be forgotten in the wake of the North Carolina native’s recent masterpiece, ‘My Woman’.