Boy oh boy. Lordy-loo. Some other silly euphemism for having the socks blown straight off you. Let it be said, this album had my toes naked, chilly and afraid.
Goodbye Grote Bollen, the debut album from Adelaide bard Alana Jagt released today, is truly a sonic and emotional roller coaster.
Packed to the bloody rafters with old world charm, a hefty dollop of vocal charisma, and a fascinating cocktail of modern Australiana folksy lyricism and husky Americana blues, Jagt has crafted not only an infinitely listenable album, but one that is sincerely interesting.
Unlike what is often the case with debuts, there seems little uncertainty or testing of the sonic waters, with Goodbye Grote Bollen seeming fully and totally actualised as a coherent and deliberate piece.
With each track, Jagt takes us on a personal journey via a handful of different small towns that have shaped her. We’re driven down the dirt roads of Wangyarra in the Southern Flinders Ranges, bask under the starry brilliance of Napperby skies, and invited to stay overnight in the seaside town of Semaphore.
Jagt invites us even further into her world, with the name of the album inspired by a photograph of a cake bearing the words “Grote Bollen“, that she found while sifting through the ashes of her recently destroyed family home.
"Turns out, my parents once worked in a tulip bulb sorting factory," she said.
"When their time at the factory ended, they brought a cake in to celebrate.
“Grote Bollen translates to 'big bulbs'... there could be a Dutch pun happening there, I'm not exactly sure, but I eventually came to think of these songs as my bulbs and now I'm saying goodbye to them.”
We open with ‘Stay in Bed’, an ode to the simple (but very real) joy of a sleep in. It’s playful, soft and warbly - chorused by what sounds like children’s choir and the warm morning bird call alarm of every Australian who lives anywhere near a tree. Jagt plays every instrument on this one (flex queen).
Next up, a previous release from 2019, ‘If We Had Some Money’ has the deep, swinging pendulum of Ocean Alley melodies, with the very same anthemic authority. As Jagt sings (with a certain level of dreamy disconnect) about how easy life would be with a bit of coin, you’re reminded both by her easy swing of runs and the rollicking guitar and cymbal backdrop of early Californian folk rock - think Mamas and the Papas, if Mama Cass had an Aussie skater girl wardrobe and a cat called Rad. Utilising the greatest of all muses, the lyrics were inspired by a Homer Simpson quote and composed on a 5 hour road trip.
Track three, ‘Darkness Lies‘, sees Jagt take an unexpected left turn into angst, speaking of revelation of terrible truth and the very human tendency to fear the unknown. A ukelele twang with words sung as a howling lament, punctuated with a tambourine smack reveal a gothic soundtrack that wouldn’t be out of place at the crisis point of a good western movie.
The first single released from Goodbye Grote Bollen, ‘Imagining Life’ was released all the way back in April, 2019. Though it starts gloomy, the dark bud of emotion flowers into a lighter chorus, the lyrics detailing Jagt’s memories of living nearby the stormy seas of Semaphore, flush with upheaval and change. This one has been proven crowd pleaser at Jagt’s live shows and if it does slightly miss the rugged, ripped-up quality she delivers live (I say with authority from watching a recording on YouTube), this more polished recording does showcase her vocal and composing prowess to slightly better favour.
Always a sap for a gentle lullaby love song with a woman’s name dedication, Jagt’s cover of Weens ‘Sarah‘ was a highlight on the album for me. The tenderness of each chord and intimacy instilled into every note would leave even the most stoic of people a bit softer-hearted. It’s a song you’d watch your grandparents slow dancing to in the living room on a rainy evening when they thought everyone was asleep.
The third released single from the album is where you can really feel Jagt get into her groove. Slinky, gritty with just enough horns to keep it interesting, ‘Stars of Napperby‘ is Pink Panther jazzy, with Jagt coursening her vocals to that of a smoky lounge room singer. This one is absolutely brilliant and my fave on the album.
‘In Some Dream‘ is a sleepy distort ballad that you would be forgiven for thinking had Julia Jacklin’s signature on it. Lulling you into a dreamscape with its old folksy charm and wistfulness, it has surprising peaks to break up the drowsy beauty.
Jagt leans strongly into the country blues for ‘Stirred the Dirt‘, with textured runs, pain-soaked lyrics and plenty of natural allegory. This one is piano heavy, with drawling drums, low registered belts and lyrically stirring narrative of what it meant to grow up on Nukunu country.
Final track ‘Reprise’ is a technicolour synth wonderland, covering the string section of long-time fan favourite ‘Imagining Life’. The instrumental closer has a heady mixture of wood-elf wind orchestra and Wizard of Oz on acid. A soothing wind down for a whirlwind of a aural journey.
Jagt’s sound has emerged like Athena from the head of Zeus - fully grown, in battle armour and totally sure of itself.
It’s an impressive album, and I for one will be keeping an ear to the ground and an eye on Alana Jagt’s star because it is sure to be rising soon.
'Goodbye Grote Bollen' Album Tour:
12th Oct - Ararat Live, Ararat VIC
13th Oct - Shotkickers, Melbourne VIC
14th Oct - The Old Church On The Hill, Bendigo VIC
15th Oct - Macedon Railway Hotel, Macedon VIC
30th Oct - Folkloria Festival, McLaren Vale SA
18th Nov - Three Brothers Arms, Macclesfield SA
25th Nov - Album Launch - Grace Emily Hotel, Adelaide SA
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