Victorian heartthrob Jacob Fitzgerald is back at it again, this time with his sophomore EP Pretend I'm Cool. A follow-up from 2019's Whole & Broken, this album takes us on a journey from the future to the past, travelling from funk to country. Featuring 7 exciting tracks to pluck along to on your Bo Diddley, the highly anticipated EP is the perfect thing for the modern country gentleman to blast while he's flying down the dusty roads from the Darling Downs to Broken Hill.
A little birdy told me that the first track, 'Pretty Good for My Mind,' is actually a retelling of how Jacob's parents met. It is a country song skeleton, wearing pop-faux-sunglasses-&-moustache with a freaky vocoder intro, Daft Punk-style. The cybernetic production might fool you into thinking it's a gallop down 80's lane, like I did on my first listen - but strip it away and it is well & truly a country song with a thick, beating heart. The crooning vocals usher us into the picture theatre, and the sweeping guitar chords ring out and collect the popcorn once we're gone. There is some nice call-and-response between the vocal and the robo, and it sounds like the 80's came and stole our lunch money and then paid us back with a beautiful little Sesame Street sax solo. There is also an incredibly endearing & hilarious accompanying video for 'Pretty Good for My Mind,' be sure to check it out!
Track 2 is 'Never Just Sex,' and it contrasts perfectly with the first song, going from futuristic country-funk to the heartfelt past. The main motif sounds like if David Bowie slipped a guitar cover of Wham's 'Last Christmas' into Labyrinth. They bill this guy as a pop-rock artist, but take a look at his Triple J Unearthed profile and you'll find his #1 "sounds like" artist to be correctly listed as Bruce Springsteen. And there ain't nothin' wrong with that! Brucey Boy's basically the coolest dude ever. The smooth vocal delivery of this track whisks us up into a big ol' ballad and an even bigger bridge to take us home.
Numero 3 is the groovy titular 'Pretend I'm Cool,' which starts out with a swanky brass jingle and funkadelic synths. It's some sort of pop-phunk conglomerate, with cool drums and is both catchy & funny. It sounds like something from the Breakfast Club Soundtrack, 80's nostalgia oozing from every pore. This is certainly this biggest foray into pop on the album, replacing the folk and country roots with the feel-good dancing of a frisky mule.
'Catching Lightning' zaps us next, and is different from anything so far. It is a piano-driven reminiscent, love song. A beautiful ballad if there ever was one. Certainly more raw in vocal delivery, the quiet space between the notes is utilised perfectly in the chorus to highlight big notes from Jacob and let them really shine. It really gives me Bruno Mars 'I Just Wanna Marry You' vibes, but a shade more melancholic. We then get more lift than Shannon Noll in the bridge. Beautiful and cherubic, this song is the rose between a dancer's teeth.
Zinging in at number 5, 'Lonely' takes us into the realms of deep vibrato, with his vocal chords stretching 3 meters for this one. Deep, luxurious dark-chocolate flavoured vocals take our hand and pull us into the night. It has some really cool pump-up kick drums driving the piece once it gets into it, and then back into the uplifting slow sections. I'm a big fan of back-to-back songs which lead into each other and prop each other up. Similar to Dragon's iconic Running Free, with 'Any Fool Can Tell You' into 'Shooting Stars,' when you listen to this song and the next, it really tells a story.
The second half of the tale is track 6, 'Love Hurts.' We are greeted with a slow, emotive piano start, similar to 'Heartbeat' from Childish Gambino. We then go into an up-tempo rockified country ballad. Seriously, chuck on a Stetson and hit up CMC for airplay, you'll legit become a millionaire. I can weirdly see him being popular out west.
Our final track is 'Bit of a Mess.' It starts raw, with vocals only before jumping into a cool kick-thump & guitar folk-rock thing you hear on Triple J. And then we get The Build. It grows and grows and features big voices & classic guitar rhythms. I am convinced that this secretly a country album in pop-clothing. I know for a fact that my mum out in Toowoomba is going to lose her nut over this. Just listen to his older tracks like 2020's beautiful 'My Brother' and tell me he's not a country artist. I'm diggin' it though! Jacob Fitzgerald is rockin' it!
Our tale begins in the sterile robotic future, and ends on a dusty crossroads in a forgotten Outback desert. As the tumble weeds roll lazily through, our stoic hero stands there with naught but a guitar strapped to his back and the voice that could launch a thousand tractors. Jacob Fitzgerald is the man with the coffee-stain mow-how and more magnetism than a fridge. Let the crooner sing you to sleep in your ear holes today, with his latest EP Pretend I'm Cool available everywhere NOW.