Australian singer and songwriter Sarah Jane has made a name for herself in the world of alt rock and her second album, Tainted Timeline, released on 23 October, is another venture into this genre, with more than a smattering of folk tones added to the mix. Written and recorded herself and playing drums (excluding four songs), bass, piano and guitar, this is a very personal sounding project. Dig a little deeper and Sarah Jane says that this album is about subjects such as divorce, mental health and overall just not having a good time; Tainted Timeline refers to the innocence of childhood (the cover shows the first house Sarah Jane lived in, complete with awesome cat) and her belief that she has crossed over into the wrong dimension as it seems everything has gone wrong over the past couple years.
The rock influences are there from the start, with ‘Sleepwalking‘ and ‘Cross Contaminate‘ seamlessly mixing together acoustic and classic rock sounds – the third track, ‘August‘ follows a similar pattern and establishes a consistent theme for the other tracks to follow.
My favourite track is ‘Control’ which is a proper toe tapper – it’s got great danceability. The alt rock fits with the control filled lyrics in such a way that the sometimes difficult emotions and thought processes are highlighted. The track sounds as if a battle for control is being fought and makes the listener think.
Deeper into the album and hints of mental health struggles are everywhere. ‘Poison’ and ‘Suffocate’ in particular, look at these areas:
I’m a prisoner in my own head
I can’t be myself / I wish someone cared
One of the most interesting songs is ‘The Kids‘ where Sarah Jane’s vocals really come alive in singing about sexual politics throughout the ages, saying “We taught them to view themselves differently…we taught them how to be”. It’s a piano led, more acoustic sound, along with three of the last four songs and enhances the folkier aspect of ‘Tainted Timeline‘.
The theme of life having gone wrong and perhaps feeling as if an alternative universe has opened up is explored in the penultimate track, ‘Talk About It‘. The unanswerable desire to know what ‘might have been’ prompts Sarah Jane’s lyrics that “it’s no one’s fault…why we are here” and that “this tainted timeline has been written wrong”. I think we’ve all felt that at some point in our lives we’re on the wrong track, through nobody’s fault but how we wish it wasn’t so – maybe the whole world is feeling like this in 2020!
Sarah Jane’s advice for aspiring musicians is something that everyone can do without needing much equipment or money:
Practice, even with song writing. You need to write bad ones to get good ones. Also, don’t be too hard on yourself, being too much of a perfectionist can be a bad thing & limit progress. Give yourself time and be patient.
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