Melbourne is far from a typical summer album release. Far from what I would expect to come out of Asheville, N.C. or Fat Possum Records. Instead, Jackson Scott’s dripping, echoing vocals and fuzzed out songs sound like they’ve come from a dingy Brooklyn apartment during the coldest part of February. Listening to Melbourne, I was surprised to hear one of the darkest albums I’ve encountered in a long time.
The surprises continued. For one, I was ready to write the whole album off after about 30 seconds of “Never Ever.” My brain felt like I’d just walked into a room of smoke. But through the haze, an acoustic guitar appeared. A tingle of eerie delight went through me as Jackson Scott’s vocals, double-tracked to be slightly off, sang a love song to a girl named Evie and took on metamorphic qualities from song to song.
Scott changes voices and personas like some artists change guitars. He is only 20, an age of identity discovery and crisis, so assuming various roles artistically makes sense.
“Only Eternal” serves as an intro track that slides into the world of Jackson Scott. It’s a pretty strung-out and sad place, and so the album goes.
I read that “Sandy” is supposed to be a break from the gloom, a celebration and ode to the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. But in reality, the song is a far cry from “cheery” and “endearing,” as some critics say. Scott’s reverb-rich mimicry of a child’s voice, echoing jingle bells, and lyrics like, “Children lost, all twenty-seven,” make this song haunting and close to the truth of that terrifying and messed-up incident.
Imitating a child’s voice is also a theme on “Any Way,” a song that seems to feature one of those rainbow xylophones usually found in toddlers’ playpens, but I guess now are in indie-rockers bedrooms, too.
Aside from the child’s persona, Scott channels ‘90s alt heroes that he’s too young to remember personally. Elliott Smith and Kurt Cobain come through on the guitar sounds of “That Awful Sound,” “Tomorrow,” and “Doctor Mad.” The only catch is that Scott lyrically lags behind those two prolific men. However, comparisons to Smith and Cobain show that Jackson Scott has serious potential. His guitar hooks and chord progressions pull the album out of the sound swamp, and the bass lines keep it moving.
I don’t think this will be Scott’s breakout album, but it does earn him a spot on my one-to-watch list. The complex emotions and studio effects he wrangles with on this album are admirable. His ability to craft an album will shine once Scott finds his own persona in the confusing world of indie rock and post-grunge music.