EP Walkthrough: Jaguar Jonze guides us through Diamonds & Liquid Gold
On her debut EP, the Brisbane-based musician twists together the worlds of indie, electronica and pop.
Header image by Ribal Hosn.
It's difficult to find an Australian artist like Jaguar Jonze. Since emerging with her 2018 debut single You Got Left Behind, the Japanese-born, Brisbane-raised musician has emerged a rising star in Australian pop music, bending genres and morphing together sounds as she goes. Over the last two years, she's become synonymous with the next generation of Australian music and the freeing, boundary-pushing movement that lays within; the new faces in Australian music aren't scared to think outside of the box, and Jaguar Jonze is a brilliant example of that.
Her debut EP, last week's Diamonds & Liquid Gold is simultaneously a recollection of Jaguar Jonze's strengths displayed thus far and a look forward into the future, encapsulating her sound and vision as it currently stands while also peeking into the brightly lit world of her tomorrow, something a lot of people are eagerly awaiting. It's also an EP that highlights this aforementioned genre richness, incorporating a wealth of sounds and influences into something that's distinctly Jaguar Jonze; storytelling an authenticity at the forefront each and every time.
From the get-go, Diamonds & Liquid Gold showcases Jaguar Jonze's strengths. On Rising Sun, her vocals dances amongst rhythms plucked from R&B, indie and electronica; the worlds of Kali Uchis, Angel Olsen and Massive Attack coming together in a way that makes no sense on paper, but Jonze is able to execute flawlessly. Beijing Baby, her break-out track, is as strong as it was on release early last year, and placing songs like You Got Left Behind side-by-side to newer-released tracks like Rabbit Hole show how she has evolved and grown in a matter of twelve months, both musically and personally.
"If Jaguar Jonze was a TV show, this would be the theme song," says Jonze on Rising Sun. "I've forever been saying as the tagline ‘Eastern cowgirl howling at the rising sun.’ So, I wanted to sneakily weave that into the lyrics. This is the side to Jaguar we haven't seen yet - the formidable, invulnerable side."
However, where Diamonds & Liquid Gold shines is in its ability to look forwards. Rising Sun, the aforementioned single released alongside the EP, incorporated her deeper knowledge of the workings of her sound and shows it off without making a single mistake, while the EP's title track does something similar, taking things a little slower as she moves into almost ballad-esque territory. It's distinctly Jaguar Jonze, but she's shining in ways we haven't heard before - and that's incredibly exciting to see.
There's something really beautiful that stems from Jaguar Jonze and the universe she creates, so as the rest of the world catches up - they'll get there eventually - dive into her debut EP below alongside a track-by-track walkthrough that sees Jonze walk us through the release one track a time, breaking down the EP's creation and themes as she goes.
It feels surreal to finally be putting out my debut EP Diamonds & Liquid Gold - I say it's been an 18-month journey to get to this point, but the truth is, it's been much much much longer. I never thought I'd be putting out the record under the circumstances we're all in at the moment, and while I battle COVID-19 but it makes it that much more memorable. I guess it adds another chapter to the tumultuous journey this EP, and the start of Jaguar Jonze has been.
1. Rising Sun
Weird to be talking about this song first, when it's the last one I worked on. All of the other songs on the EP explored vulnerability and my own personal mental health journey that I guess this song for me, is like a nice little bow wrap up on the self-discovery I've been making as an artist and as a person. I wanted to express the strength and invulnerability that exists within me as well, and so it's a little bit more aloof and commanding, ironically coated in a slow groove cruise control setting haha.
2. Rabbit Hole
Rabbit Hole was extremely personal. This is the first song I wrote alongside my bass player/co-producer Aidan Hogg after our first run of shows in 2018 with Jaguar Jonze which were in Indonesia and Singapore of all places. Being so jetlagged, we thought we'd end up with some slow, brewing ballad but it ended up being this song. At this point in 2018, I had just begun really looking into my mental health and facing the fact that I've had C-PTSD for over 20 years. My episodes manifest themselves into what I call a 'Bunny Mode' which would be better understood as prey/freezing/playing dead, so this was kind of the first step into talking about it - with myself and then releasing it in January 2020, with others.
3. Beijing Baby
Beijing Baby was the hardest song for me. It was last year in 2019, where I had been recording it from February to April. I went through a really difficult time of sexual assault by two producers and then had the track permanently deleted. I felt completely defeated and wasn't sure if I could rebuild myself. Going through those two things back to back which broke my body and deleted my spirit really put my head into a hopelessness that maybe I wouldn't be able to put it together to release. I'm so lucky to have a supportive and talented band - Aidan Hogg, Joe Fallon and Jacob Mann who got behind me and we rebuilt this track from scratch, mixed and mastered it in a matter of less than 2 weeks so that I didn't have to tell my label what had happened.
I even filmed the music video without the recorded track so that I could have it all come together on deadline. To win the Queensland Music Award this year for this song, meant a lot more than merit for the songwriting and recording, it really made me be proud of my resilience.
4. Kill Me With Your Love
It's inevitable to have a heartbreak song somewhere along the line right? This song reflected on the dissolution of a toxic relationship, that I thought was true love. How you yearn for it to work out so you keep pouring yourself into the relationship over and over and over but it turns into a cyclical pattern of toxicity. But because you've gambled so much of yourself to make it happen, you push aside the awareness of what it truly is and stick with it until, I guess, it really breaks you. Now, the song serves as a reminder for me to keep my eyes peeled for red flags haha.
5. Diamonds & Liquid Gold
Most of the songs on this EP were released as singles, and even though I could get away with 5 songs on an EP, I really wanted to show a more body of work track. This is a song that I actually wrote before any of the others and has been through many different versions to get to this place. It's also one of the songs that started the whole Jaguar Jonze project so I wanted to throw it in.
6. You Got Left Behind
My very first single. I think all of us as artists grapple with insecurities and doubts. It took me time to find the courage to put myself as an artist out there and to really believe in myself. When I scored those gigs in Singapore and Indonesia before I had even put out a single, it was that push I needed that made me go - "Well, do you want it or not, Deena? And you've got these gigs, so time to put out a song."
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