LIVE: Julia Jacklin, Obscura Hail @ Brighton Up Bar, Sydney, 18th Jan

Julia Jacklin’s back. And the new album’s going to be *killer*.

Obscura HailOpening up on this naughty school night of a Monday, we get the sadly-about-to-move-to-Melbourne but utterly wonderful Obscura Hail, all other-wordly and totally familiar at the same time. It’s a dude with a mass of curly hair, a nose-ring and a guitar, which is dime a dozen in Sydney – but then he plays these peculiar, old-timey, damn near medieval sounding songs, overlaid with a slightly higher register voice that you just *know* is up to no good.

The songs are darkly folkish, like an original Grimm tale where all the children get eaten, but are funny – the one which may or may not have been about the end of the world but incorporates a verse or two of “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None The Richer is a highlight. The rest veer between 1930s chord structures and sweet lyrics about starting a fire in your heart, to a wow-that’s-ballsy cover of The Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now” to close off. It turns out Morrissey should have done it solo, with a grin on his face, a hairy dark elf with a bag full of charm and song and dedicated it to “everyone who watched all the re-runs of Charmed.” Who knew?

See a full photo set of Obscura Hail here

Julia Jacklin

Let’s be honest, you don’t really expect much when you go to a gig on a Monday – it’s for certain that Julia Jacklin didn’t expect the room to be *this* crowded either. Here we are though, on the naughtiest of all school nights, to hear her and her band try out some new songs from the just-finished album. From the first notes to the last, it’s something a bit special.

We open with just Julia and her guitar with that heart-breaking voice, Dolly Parton doing Kristin Hersh, and the crowd pin-drop silent. The band kicks in and we are taken through songs from the upcoming LP, and it’s just mesmerising, so pretty it hurts, so sad it’s life-affirming. “Motherland” and “Elizabeth” are standouts, the latter being written about the guitarist in Jacklin’s other band, Phantastic Ferniture. There are moments when the band lose it, but the overall mood is reflective and calm, although there’s a way with words that grabs us. On “L.A Dreams” there’s a line “He told me if I could just focus, I could get laid anytime”, that’s followed up with the maudlin “I guess I was just not made for your life”.

At the end, the crowd absolutely loses it, and for the first time I can remember at the Brighton, there’s a bit of an encore. The actual very last tune is so heart-breakingly pretty and sad that it could only have been carved from puppies, wrapped in kittens, and then drowned in a particularly fine barrel of bourbon.

This show was *supposed* to be a bit of a preview for her Sydney pals. It’s a Monday night ferchrissakes. Instead, it’s a damn triumph. I’ll be the first to say ‘Country Barnett’ ok? Cool. I hate myself for it, but there – it’s done. It’s that good.

See a full photo set of Julia Jacklin here