Jack River's 'Stranger Heart' Review: A contemporary trip to the 80s with lyrics dipped in romanticism

The Australian artist will release her new EP on Valentine's Day and this is a treat with well-produced tracks that have lyrics dipped in romanticism


                            Jack River's 'Stranger Heart' Review: A contemporary trip to the 80s with lyrics dipped in romanticism
Holly Rankin aka Jack River (Press handout)

Australian writer, musician and entrepreneur Holly Rankin, professionally monikered as Jack River, will be releasing her new EP 'Stranger Heart' on Valentine's Day. 'Stranger Heart' follows her debut LP 'Sugar Mountain', which released in 2018 and earned three ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) nominations and an APRA nomination.

For the new EP, River has shifted her focus to the present where she explores the heart and realness that can be discovered in the digital age. She revels in both the simple and complex everyday moments that one may miss with the distractions of the modern world.

Rankin not only continues to evolve her successful ventures in the music industry but also lists as a festival curator/director, emerging as one of Australia's youngest festival promoters and a change agent. She is also lending her voice in combating the world's climate change crisis.

Holly Isabella Rankin, professionally monikered as Jack River (Press Handout)

'Stranger Heart' opens with an introductory one minute track titled 'The Lonely Hunter'. This unveils the curtains to the EP's inventive electronic themes. Playing out in a build-up of a sweet chiming melody reminiscent of a cybered-up xylophone, we get an introduction to River's mesmerizing high vocal range halfway in. The climatic point reaches its highest peak with multiple layers of the instrumentals and a warping fade-out ensues as the song begins to close.

The second song 'Later Flight' begins to set the rhythmic pulse of the EP with a strong driving beat and resounding instruments that resonate as a Sheryl Crow song, only more electrified. Apart from being a love song at its core, the track romanticizes the casual affairs of relationships while still portraying a sense of loyalty through the words. 'Later Flight' was conceptualized by River when she was on a tour.

She said, "I wasn't sure if I had the guts to say something as bold as 'I will love you for all of my life'," but what results is a love song fearless in its presentation that avoids fantasy. River said that the song is a milestone in her musical journey. "'Later Flight' is a song about freedom. I've always danced around writing an honest love song, but 'Later Flight' is a direct and candid world of big feels, big highs and big hopes." She adds, "For so long my songs have revolved around the past and future, this song marks a new chapter of songs from the present and the heart."

'Stranger Heart' EP cover art (Press Handout)

'Dark Star' plays with all the attractive tools of the 1980s music and a few bands of that era spring to mind immediately upon listening. It is as if Roxette's 'Joyride' and Simple Minds' 'Don't You (Forget About Me)' collided and rendered a piece of musical art. 'Dark Star' captures its listeners' minds in the 1980s digital euphoria while River sings the chorus, "You're my dark star, baby come on spin me round. Be my hot shot ticket to the edge of time. Dark star, baby come spin me around. Don't leave your loved up lover on the cold cold ground." 

The fifth song, 'Closer', features as a highlight slow jam of the EP, with which River worked with longtime collaborator Xavier Dunn on its production. Dunn worked with River on her 3X ARIA and APRA nominated debut LP 'Sugar Mountain' (June 2018) as well as her recent Peking Duk collaboration 'Sugar' which earned a 2019 ARIA Best Dance Release nomination.

Speaking about the album, she said, "Writing this EP was a process of questioning myself: 'Do you actually feel this? Because if you really feel it you have to write it, and you have to put it out to make yourself feel uncomfortable and true."

You can check out the 'Closer' music video here.

Jack River performs on the AO Live Stage during day 10 of the 2019 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 23, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia (Graham Denholm/Getty Images for Tennis Australia)

'Infinity Roses' slides in as a somber ethereal song that takes us to darker plains but uplifts with its empowering lyrics as River sings, "They can hold you down. But they can't take your crown. They can tell you no. But baby you will still go. A hundred lights, a hundred times." The song enforces a will to face difficult times and push through the dark clouds conveyed by rich multi-layered electronic synth strings and River's vocal harmonies.

River's debut album 'Sugar Mountain' earned the 28-year-old artist three ARIA nominations in 2018. Her nominations include Breakthrough Artist, Best Pop Release and Engineer of the Year, an APRA nomination for Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year as well as support slots for Florence + The Machine, Aussie idol Vance Joy and Peking Duk. River sold out a headline tour of Australia, returning in 2019 with her 'Sugar Mountain Ball' tour.

River's new EP is sure to take the world by surprise with its throwback-to-the-'80s feel and bold lyrical stance. Although one may not be enticed from the word go, 'Stranger Heart' comes greatly recommendable for its rich electronica themes and lyrical content that is fearless, unbound by fantasy and transported by ambient, transcendent music.

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