The day has come — one of my favorite albums of 2018 has finally dropped. Australia’s Phantastic Ferniture have released their self-titled debut album (out on Polyvinvyl today), which is in my opinion one of the best rock records of the year.
The side project of singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin (a favorite around these parts), the band positions Jacklin as the lead singer, with the trio rounded out by Elizabeth Hughes and Ryan K Brennan. It’s got a vintage garage pop feel to it, a record that would fit amongst early Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Fleetwood Mac, and others from that era.
Jacklin said this project was conceived as a way to get away from the heartbreaking tunes each in the band had been writing in their solo projects. These tunes have a lighter feel to them than anything on Jacklin’s exquisite debut Don’t Let The Kids Win. This album is a perfect companion to a road trip with the windows down, smokin’ a joint.
Opening track “Uncomfortable Teenager” has a jangly Tom Petty guitar riff that gives you the album’s vibe from the outset.
“Bad Timing” was the most recent single released and is one of my favorite tracks from the record. It feels like a personal attack on anyone who has dated in Los Angeles — “Maybe it’s not the timing, maybe we were never meant to be / Maybe you’d stick around if you truly love me / When you get back would you let me know — if sleeping around set you free?” Jacklin sings, with “When you get back, when you get back” repeating.
Jacklin seems to fully embrace her role on this album, and it comes through in her singing. On the album’s lead single “Fuckin ‘n’ Rollin”, there isn’t much to the lyrics, but it’s an insanely groovy tune with a driving bass line. “I’ve been waiting to find it / You’ve been waiting to fly,” Jacklin sings in a folk-rock way before shouting “Fuckin and rollin, just feels right!”
Another driving bass line features heavily in “Gap Year” — one of the more sentimental songs on the record, about unrequited love. On “Take It Off”, we hear Jacklin stretch her vocals to their furthest possibilities when she yells the song title at the top of her lungs. “I’ll take my time, you take it off” puts Jacklin in the driver’s seat telling her partner to strip. In a track-by-track breakdown at The 405, Jacklin talks about how one fan calls it “The Black Keys riff song”.
Similar to “Take It Off” there’s “I Need It”, another guitar-riff driven song that showcases Jacklin’s vocal abilities in the chorus, holding a note for an incredibly long time.
The second half of the album is slightly less strong than the first, but my favorite non-single is among it. “Dark Corner Dance Floor” has vocals that are incredibly hard to make out — I still have no idea what Jacklin is saying most of the time — but the tempo is exquisite, with her vocals in the chorus sounding ’70s folk rock as fuck in the best way. It’s a song to me that signifies wanting to go out and dance without being bothered.
Overall, this is top-to-bottom an exquisite album, especially when taking into account its none of the three members’ primary musical focus. I’m hopeful it does well enough that they grace us with a tour that includes a stop in Los Angeles. Because as good as these tunes sound on record, I bet they’re even more lively in a concert setting.