by David Chiu
In Gilded, newcomer Jade Jackson has made one of the best debut albums so far this year. For someone who is still in her 20s, Jackson through her gifts as a natural-born storyteller has packed a lifetime’s worth of experience in these 11 country-influenced songs. Her lyrics aren’t sentimental but rather blunt and somber meditations about heartbreak and yearning from the perspective of an outsider or outcast, which makes it all relatable to the listener. With the production help of Social Distortion’s Mike Ness (whom Jackson saw at a show at the age of 13, which was a defining moment in her life), Jackson has crafted a collection of memorable tracks that doesn’t have a dud in the bunch, balancing between spunky country-punk (“Aden,” “Troubled End,” “Better Off,” “Good Time Gone”) and and somber ballads (“Bridges.” “Back When,” “No Guarantees”). On a record that has a lot many standout tracks, the dreamy single “Finish Line” rings true, especially with the brilliant lyric of: “Waking up for the first time/Is when you don’t stop running at the finish line”; the mid-tempo “Motorcycle” has a sassy and refreshing empowering feminist bent (“Boy, it’s been fun/But my motorcycle only seats one”); and the title track is powerful in evoking the theme of betrayal of sorts (“Your once golden heart gilded her wings/Sent her flying to fall beneath”). Ness’ sterling production work complements Jackson’s songwriting gifts and her distinctive husky and soulful voice. On the first try, Gilded hits it out of the park and establishes this Californian as an emerging artist to keep an eye out for.