On the surface Sugar Mountain is a glittery pop spectacle, however underneath the catchy rhythms and up-beat guitar riffs, the lyrics recall a dark time for Holly Rankin (A.K.A Jack River).
Holly grew up on the coast of New South Wales in a small town called Foster. She describes her early years as idyllic, however after the age of 14 she viewed life very differently. Her younger sister was killed in a freak accident; after this Holly turned to music to make sense of the world. The 26 year old is now based in Sydney and released her first album Sugar Mountain last month.
Creating music became a means of survival for Holly and it helped her transition into songstress alter ego Jack River. “I realised how much music…could save me and it definitely has,” she told Richard Kingsmill on Triple J radio.
The album takes listeners to the dark place of her pain. Each song is a “trick of the light” River wrote River on her biography page, “from one angle it’s luminous and lovely, from another it’s imbued with a terrible sorrow”. River named her album after Neil Young’s song Sugar Mountain, a bittersweet ode to the loss of innocence. River says her album is “the souvenir of my youth, the wish of what it could have been”.
The opening track Her Smile is River remembering her sister, yet also talking to her through the lyrics. “You’re going somewhere I don’t know, somewhere closer, maybe I know.” River spoke of her sister’s passing saying, “the energy of her feels so real, what if it’s a closer experience when someone passes away? What if they go to a closer place?” She is allowing herself to let her sister go, a cathartic experience that song writing creates.
Ballroom is one of the most successful songs of the album. It comments on River’s ability to perform on stage at times when she is feeling dark and overcoming that sense of helplessness. “I know some things were always going to burn and all our stars were born to die. But I’m not gonna die tonight.” Fault Line is the first single of the album, dealing with loving people while they are still with you, before it is too late. The track Fool’s Gold uplifts listeners with its psych pop beats and glittering imagery: “Fool’s gold, shining in the night, so easy on the eyes.”
The 13 song album takes listeners to a melancholy place while giving them the urge to go for a long drive with the windows down. River lost a part of her youth at 14, but through Sugar Mountain, she seals herself in the Australian music industry as an artist destined for great things. The album has colourful and bright aspects; it is a reflection of youth and the happy memories River had with her sister.
River is incredibly productive, creating her own festival Electric Lady due to the under-representation of women in the music industry. River told Triple J’s Al Newstead that the aim of Electric Lady is “to grow the pool of artists from which major music events and festivals draw from”. She does this by giving female artists opportunities to showcase their talent at the music festival held in Queensland once a year. This can lead to booking a spot at other major festivals and helps to develop their talent.
Jack River is bringing her Sugar Mountain tour to Melbourne on the 12th and 14th September.