Even though Jackie Hayes’ second EP ‘There’s Always Going To Be Something’ is slathered with big, brash choruses, the world she details in her lyrics is bleak and hopeless. Growing up is tough. Materialism is omnipresent. The only break from the mundanity of everyday life is sleeping. The 21-year-old uses slanted melodies to illustrate the more banal facets of her life, and makes a compelling case for her brand of self-aware cynicism throughout: “I’ve become a dead battery/Suck out all the fun”, she sings over a squall over of distortion on crunchy opener ‘omg’. You can practically hear her eyes rolling.
The Chicago-based singer-songwriter continues to probe the disappointments of early adulthood across five tracks: she’s able to poke fun at herself while she cherry-picks the boldest elements of her ‘90s-influenced alt-rock palette. ‘have fun’ teams scuzzy production (a clever sonic reflection of apathy and numbness) with rolling waves of snare drums. And Hayes, singing often in deadpan, really hits as she makes her matter-of-fact delivery seem knowing rather than repetitive.
Despite the fact that Hayes vacillates between general ennui and self-loathing, fortunately the music doesn’t reflect a crisis of confidence. ‘sunday’, a biting track that fixates on the claustrophobia of growing up in the Church, makes her punky, adventurous guitar skills a key part of the storytelling. Her striking personality even makes the palpable discomfort of the song’s retelling of miserable childhood memories far easier to swallow.
Frustratingly, these low-key, almost impressively simplistic triumphs are undermined by a handful of diluted lyrics. ‘brand new’ borders on the one-dimensional: “Don’t wanna be negative/But that’s just the way it is/Yeah”, she shrugs, before the track shrinks itself into a gentle stomp. ‘material’s attempt at rallying against the hollowness of greed, meanwhile, feels too broad – it’s here where an underdeveloped idea takes precedence over true emotional substance.
But Hayes has all the time in the world to refine her writing chops, and the level of unbothered energy displayed throughout occasionally works in her favour; the aforementioned ‘omg’ – with its pops of dry sarcasm and dark fun – redeems some of the collection’s more tedious miscues.
As the title suggests, existential despair looms large in Hayes’s world, but by working up the courage to share her angst with the world, this EP makes a tentative step towards the real guitar hero that she is capable of becoming.
- Release date: August 13
- Record label: Jackie Hayes