Jack River, arguably one of Australia’s most exciting artists of the moment, will release her much-anticipated debut album Sugar Mountain on June 22 via Holly Rankin’s own label Hopeless Utopian. News of the album comes amidst a completely sold-out Australian tour.
Sugar Mountain is a phosphorescent album. It seems to glow with pop highs and spacey riffs, but come closer and you’ll glimpse the darkness in its depths. The first clue is in the title, says Jack River (real name Holly Rankin). Sugar Mountain is named after Neil Young’s bittersweet ode to youth and the loss of innocence. As Rankin explains it, “It’s the souvenir of my youth, the wish of what it could have been.”
Eleven years ago, a tragedy fractured Rankin’s life – and the small NSW coastal town she grew up in – when her beloved younger sister passed away in an accident. Rankin found herself adrift, and songwriting became not so much catharsis as a survival tool.
“Writing and producing what is now Sugar Mountain was my self-created tool to pour every fragment of my inner destruction into some kind of creation. When I stopped to look at what I was doing and what I was chasing, I realised that every single song on this album is about something I didn’t have, lovers I never touched, and the production was the vision and sound of an alternate youth, one (naturally) from the movies, from the dream. Coupled with this vision of youth, this album was made over so many years and setbacks that the drums got louder, the guitars got thicker, the synths got clearer and my vocals found strength they never had when I started. It’s my self-written bible of crawling toward the light amidst one of the darkest times a family could ever endure.” – Holly Rankin.
Like everything she touches, each of the songs from Sugar Mountain were meticulously written, produced and performed by Rankin only, working with co-producers Xavier Dunn and John Castle. Spike Stent lent his mixing magic to the tracks, adding the final icing on the cake.
Following up her breakout EP Highway Songs No. 2, which featured runaway tracks “Palo Alto” and “Talk Like That,” Jack River has blessed us with three stellar singles from Sugar Mountain to date; each expressing a fragment of the experiences Rankin dared to dream and each accompanied by stunning clips directed by Matt Sav.
First single “Fool’s Gold” fell into our laps in June of last year, a song that filled a void we didn’t know was missing in alt pop territory – glitter, grit and a feeling of moving on from a dream that’s lost its sparkle. “Fool’s Gold” has amassed over 3 million streams and took out the #64 place in triple j’s Hottest 100 earlier this year. Next came yet another pot of gold in the form of “Fault Line,” reinforcing Jack River as a force to be reckoned with, and with the perfect mix of guts and sparkle this artist has become known for. Sitting close to 1 million streams, “Fault Line” began its life in the midst of a heaving house party – written alone in a room while the party teased through her home.
Current single “Ballroom” burst the door wide open. In the midst of its gritty pop height, “Ballroom” is a love song, but not just in the traditional romantic sense; listen a little deeper, there is a depth propelling the dream. It’s a last chance, now or never kind of track, dedicated to the doubters and those that want to see you falter. The three singles will be joined by nine more tales of a youth spent outside reality. Each song is a trick of the light: from one angle it’s luminous and lovely, from another it’s imbued with a terrible sorrow.
Outside of her music as Jack River, Holly Rankin simply cannot sit still. Community, equality, politics and environment infiltrate every inch of her being. Rankin, along with a team of local mates, is responsible for Grow Your Own Festival – a community enriching festival in her hometown of Forster highlighting the music, arts, agriculture and businesses of the area. She also heads up Electric Lady, a platform that aims to amplify the strength of women in music, politics, science, sport and beyond. The movement has seen two hugely successful nights in Sydney and Melbourne, a dedicated stage at the recent Mountain Sounds Festival and a stage at this year’s Commonwealth Games “Festival 2018” on the Gold Coast.
An artist in the truest sense of the word, an advocate for equality and change and a successful and inspiring entrepreneur – it’s hard to believe this is just the beginning for Jack River and Holly Rankin.