Julia Jacklin stands alone Saturday night with guitar in hand, in the middle of the renowned El Rey stage. She’s opening up for Calexico, the well-received indie band with a dedicated fan base, but the way Julia Jacklin comfortably embraces the stage, she could’ve been playing for her closest friends at a bar.
Jacklin comes from the Blue Mountains of Australia (these artists from Australia keep on a-comin’ and I’m fine with that) where she worked in a factory by day whilst crafting her songs at night. It’s a pretty average story of a hard-working musician. The result? An incredible songwriter and vocalist with enough humility to spread around. Don’t Let the Kids Win was released in October 2016 and praised with rave reviews drawing exhausted comparisons to the likes of Julien Baker, Sharon Van Etten… you get the idea. Take a girl with a guitar, clever and heart-aching lyrics with the voice of a folk-singing angel and apparently, she’s Angel Olsen. On Don’t Let the Kids Win, Jacklin’s backed by a full band making for fun and swingin’ folk-pop songs with an old school vibe. From the lo-fi, mostly rock-driven song “Coming of Age,” to the 60s slow dance ballad “Leadlight,” Jacklin has cultivated a unique sound while giving each song their own room to stand on their own. Playing without a backing band gave Jacklin’s music a new personality. If her album is the friend you’d stay up with till 3 am dancing on countertops, Jacklin’s music live is the friend you’d share a glass of whiskey with while going over the details of a failed relationship.
Jacklin’s voice echoes through the half-full El Rey as she asks “so for me why won’t you try” on one of her first lead singles “Pool Party.” While most have fun at the pool, Jacklin is introspectively watching her lover sink beneath the surface of the water. She’s really big on taking fun ideas and packing them with angsty metaphors because as we’ve all discovered by now, there’s never a wrong time to overthink something. Los Angeles audiences, including myself, unabashedly love when singers reference Los Angeles in a song. And when they sing it live? Oh, one of my favorite things. Are they mentioning my city (one of the biggest cities in the world) in their song? Must be my lucky day. “L.A. Dream” was prefaced with a cute story of meeting a boy in San Francisco and over the course of 4 days, they fell in love. With all of her charm, Jacklin convinced said boy to move back to Australia with her. They’re married now! Just kidding, it shockingly didn’t work out, but it made for one hell of a song and a personal highlight of the night. Sometimes an unrequited love is as unattainable as the glorified “L.A. Dream.” It’s an exciting idea but maybe it is just that, an idea.
During the set, Jacklin performed two new songs from her forthcoming record with an undisclosed due date. By the sounds of it, the record will focus on heartbreak and learning to mature. “Pressure to Party” details the anxiety behind going out to please your friends or staying in because sometimes one would just like to sit in and watch baking shows goddammit.
The intimate and vulnerability of the performance was something that perhaps couldn’t have been achieved with a full band. “Don’t Let the Kids Win” hit each person like a ton of guilty bricks. After hearing “us kids will be alright if we’re not the center of her universe” through Jacklin’s at once warbling vocals, I’ll take a guess and say 100% of the audience had the dying urge to give their mother a ring and shower her with appreciation. As an emerging artist, the solo set gave Jacklin the space to prove herself as a songwriter and vocalist. Hell, halfway through her set I was already wishing I had tickets for her next show. See Julia Jacklin next time she rolls through your town but enters with caution. May cause heartache.
You can also now catch Julia in her new band Phantastic Ferniture!