Paris Jackson – ‘Wilted’ review: enthralling, inconsistent and, at times, excellent

Just as Taylor Swift enlisted indie heroes for 'Folklore', the pop progeny roped in Manchester Orchestra for her debut. The results are mixed, but promising

Paris Jackson’s debut solo album sees her join a very prestigious group. No, not the children of musical superstars who’ve also released their own music: Michael Jackson‘s 22-year-old daughter here joins the ranks of those who’ve begun a song with a greeting. Adele gave us the now-iconic “Hello, it’s me” (‘Hello’) and Simon & Garfunkel the legendary “Hello darkness, my old friend” (The Sound of Silence’). And now we’ve got Jackson, who begins her debut solo album ‘Wilted’ with a trilled greeting of, “Hey, whatcha doing?” on opening tune ‘Collide’.

It may not be the stop-in-your-tracks moment that the aforementioned songs provide, but it’s a statement nevertheless – one that indicates that ‘Wilted’ is intended to be Jackson’s musical introduction. The casual welcome feels appropriate, too, as the singer-songwriter’s debut album is a collection of 11 intimate songs that’ll fit like your favourite sweater.

This is the second musical release Jackson has had a hand in this year. The first arrived with The Soundflowers (a duo formed with her ex-boyfriend Gabriel Glenn), their recent self-titled EP filled with largely inoffensive, country-flecked pop tunes. ‘Wilted’ is more intriguing, which could be down to the unexpected collaborators Jackson recruited for the project.

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Just as Taylor Swift teamed up with The National‘s Aaron Dessner for her cabin-in-the-woods record ‘Folklore’, ‘Wilted’ sees Jackson recruited indie heroes in the form of Andy Hull and Robert McDowell of Atlanta band Manchester Orchestra. Jackson is a huge fan, and even has the artwork for the band’s 2017 album ‘A Black Mile to the Surface’ tattooed on her arm. Their fingerprints are all over the record’s production.

Haunting layered vocals, gleaming electric guitar licks and weird chord progressions permeate ‘Wilted’, and the album is at its best when these alt-rock elements are at the forefront. The lush ‘Let Down’ provides the album’s centrepiece; with jangly guitars that evoke Coldplay’s ‘A Rush of Blood to the Head’ and unconventional vocals very obviously influenced by Radiohead‘s Thom Yorke, it’s an unexpectedly euphoric cut.

‘Eyelids’, a lingering duet on which Hull and Jackson (the album’s equivalent to the ‘Folklore’ track ‘Exile’ with Bon Iver‘s Justin Vernon) muse upon the pain of memory, is a stonking alt-rock ballad. The ominous title track, a meditation on fractured heartbreak that sees Jackson’s self-assuredly conclude “I’ll be my own sun”, is filled with uneasy instrumentals that threaten to explode into a thunderous cacophony. Hell, it even comes with a menacing spoken-word section.

‘Wilted’ droops when Jackson drops these astonishing, alternative influences, which add bite to the otherwise cosy instrumentals. The insipid ‘Another Spring’ offers the lyrical equivalent of your mum sharing a “new year, new me” post on Facebook (“Seasons change, days dawn anew / I’ll rearrange and let my wounds shine through”) and the melodramatic, piano-led ‘Freight Train’ is all style and no substance.

‘Wilted’ feels caught between the twee folksy pop of Paris Jackson’s previous releases with The Soundflowers and the bewildering alt-rock icon she may become. As a musical introduction, it’s enthralling, inconsistent and, at times, excellent. Ultimately, this is a glimpse of the artist that Jackson could be.

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Release date: November 13

Record label: Republic Records

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