Melbourne-based pop trailblazer, June Jones, brings us art pop excellence with her sophomore album, Leafcutter. Jones blends raw honesty, creativity and her ear for pop beats into a nine track synth-pop album that proudly stands apart from its peers.
The album opens with ‘Jenny (Breathe)’, a track filled with haunting beats with an underlying sound that evokes images of a hazy rave. The song opens and ends with hollow squeaks that skip across the song like stones over water. On top of the bass, the beats are like a modern day Fantasia, whimsical yet grounded. Already, Jones draws you in with her poetic songwriting and balmy vocals as she sings ‘and breathe, breathe / I promise that the air down here is clean, clean.’
Like Alice after falling into Wonderland, the album’s second track, ‘Remember’, draws you into another world. There’s a lot going on in this track - from deep smooth vocals to dark synths supported by an array of instruments, if ‘Jenny (Breathe)’ was Alice falling down the rabbit hole, then ‘Remember’ is Alice walking down a twisting corridor. You can’t help but admire the brilliance of Jones’s production in this song. It’s a fresh take on a nostalgic sound (or what could easily be from a video game soundtrack) that could only have come from Jones.
The third song, ‘Therapy’, speeds things up as Alice opens the door to Wonderland. ‘I’m going to therapy / I’m praying in a church’ Jones declares amidst the percussive beats before saxophones punctuate their master’s words. The inclusion of a peculiar rushing wind sound muddles the vocals, perhaps intentionally since ‘Echo’, opens with a similar percussive sound. However, here it begins to make sense as Jones’s vocals are allowed to take centre stage. ‘I echo / I echo / I’m in myself / somebody save me’ Jones sings, almost pleadingly, as the track’s synth-pop sound swells around her. 'Echo' does what its name suggests continuing a sonic theme from ‘Therapy’ without forcing its own individuality that rounds out the midriff of the record.
‘Holy Water’ comes as a welcome change in soundscape. A falling water droplet sets the tone before Jones sings of the strength she possesses ‘to be present / to not disappear’. The track features the plucking of the viola that patters in the background like a crawling spider. Its a lovely touch that enhances the track's tone, reinforcing the dark fairy-like atmosphere.
So far, ‘Home’ is perhaps the most intimate of the songs. Jones sings ‘home is all I’ve ever wanted / the touch of your hand on my breast’. Here, Jones flutters between warm lows and lofty highs in her voice to reflect the urgency embodied in the piano softly thundering beats that permeate the track. Here, Jones is not ashamed to claim herself. Both as an artist and as a woman.
The production of ‘Nervous Poetry’ adds an omnipresent quality to Jones’s voice. Whereas the album’s other tracks capitalise off of the fullness in her voice, ‘Nervous Poetry’ focuses on the emotions in Jones’s voice. The track ends with Jones singing ‘tire me out’ into a void with ghostly vocals. So far, the album has been our journey into Jones’s Wonderland, and this is our encounter with the Cheshire Cat.
In the album’s penultimate track, ‘Inside’, Jones croons, ‘I conjure something of you inside my mind’. Here, the introspective nature of the song is perfectly captured by a tapestry of vocals and beats surrounding a flurry of notes from an energy-filled string instrument. Jones repeats the lyric ‘inside’ again and again in the final moments, a little jarringly, perhaps to suggest that the mind can be a jumble of thoughts and feelings.
The final track, ‘Dried Petals’, is Jones taking us by the hand and guiding us out of Wonderland. Of all the tracks, it’s the most laid back. Every now and again, piano keys and a calming bass add their voices to Jones’s to create a song where simplicity is key. ‘Dried petals pressed between the pages of an atlas’ Jones sings as she bids us farewell. Jones ends the record with crystalline notes as if to close Wonderland’s door behind us.
Drawing from her experience as “a deeply emotional trans woman, [and] a lesbian with ADHD”, Leafcutter is an incredible body of work from one of Australia’s most captivating artists. With a singular voice, Jones brings her own inspiration to the synth-pop world that leaves one curiouser and curiouser for more.
Saturday 27 February - 3PM
Rocksteady Records, Melb
Free Entry, Limited Capacity, All Ages
(postponed from Friday 19th February)
Leafcutter Album Launches
Saturday 13 March
Howler, Melb - Brunswick Music Festival
w/ Geryon & Kalyani
Friday 23 April - 8PM
The Thornbury Theatre, Melbourne
w/ Elle Shimada & Katie Dey
Sunday 25 April – 2:30PM
The Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine
Saturday 8 May – 9PM
Vic on the Park, Sydney
w/ Marcus Whale