Though it seems like Australians toss around the term “country music” without much precision, there’s definitely something happening down there—a small emerging crop of dreamy, retro-leaning pop acts are flirting with elements of twang. Tomorrow night a promising young singer from the Sydney suburb of Glebe makes her local debut at Martyrs’ opening for Marlon Williams, another impressive Aussie whose music has superficial elements of country. Julia Jacklin’s debut album, Don’t Let the Kids Win (Polyvinyl), drops October 7, and though her swoony, liquid vocal style has little do with Nashville country of any era, it’s definitely put its hooks in me.
As you can hear on “Leadlight” below, the gentle fluidity of Jacklin’s lovely voice transcends the basic guitar-based arrangements. Her folk-informed phrasing uses subtle hiccups, graceful swoops, and nicely controlled vibrato—qualities also audible in celebrated singers such as Angel Olsen and Sharon Van Etten—and her style fits the gently sashaying groove perfectly. On most of the album’s songs, the 25-year-old singer grapples with the kind of existential quandaries we confront when we begin making our way on our own—she sounds charmingly self-absorbed, for instance, when she warns potential suitors about her independence. But the melodic generosity of the record allows me to look past lines like “Zach Braff, you look just like my dad / Back when I thought I had the best one.”
Lol Coxhill, Ear of the Beholder (Ampex)
McKinley Mitchell, The Town I Live In (Shout!)
Robert Wyatt, ’68 (Cuneiform)
Texas Gladden, Ballad Legacy (Rounder)
Mathias Spahlinger, Morendo/Apo Do (Von Hier)/Vier Stücke/Entlöschend/Störung/Sotto Voce (Edition RZ)