Jack Nolan – Dream of Flying

Jack Nolan
Dream of Flying

The male singer-songwriter genre has undergone a renaissance in recent years. Whilst pap like David Gray has proved to be the audio equivalent of date rape, others like Elliot Smith, Will Oldham, and Joe Pernice have proven to be masters of thief trade, taking the traditional role of troubadour and manipulating it to serve their talented musings. In Australia, it’s a little different – though Paul Kelly is often regarded as Australia’s Bob Dylan, it’s difficult to name others who have risen above the role of cafe balladeer, or acoustic-stage token on the summer festival circuits without having to manipulate their style and substance to suit the more conservative country market. Maybe Jack Nolan can change this.
Combining the pop sensibilities of Elton John with the grunt of Ben Folds in full flight but with none of the OTT flamboyance. Nolan’s debut full-length release is a powerful yet strangely reflective album that paints a broad stroke. Beginning with the stirring strings of “Over and Under,” Nolan’s voice is positioned at the forefront, so lyrics are as important as their delivery. Thankfully there’s no disappointment – “She’s desperately beautiful / in a manic sort of way” is just one example of where Nolan blends his poet’s precision with an equally-powerful melody, helped out here on harmonica by Chris Wilson. At times Nolan’s music is uplifting – his voice carries a desire to celebrate, “I fly / I soar / In dreams / Never Dreamt before” from “Dreams of Flying a case in point. At others, it’s almost resigned, carrying with it the load of experience. “New Shoes” weeps of lessons not necessarily learned, of love, returned or not, surviving above and beyond life’s daily battles. It’s one of the album’s best tracks, Nolan’s voice reminiscent of early Loudon Wainwright. “New Shoes” doesn’t push or grate, it seduces. Like most of the album, days later these tracks pop up in your head. A few listens and you’re singing along.
Dreams of Flying is all the more remarkable due to it being an entirely independent release. From what I can tell, Nolan recorded this on his own back, maintaining complete control over technical and creative elements, and negotiating with Laughing Outlaw for its release. That determination has paid off. Nolan has on his hands a superb blend of pop sensibility, folk catchiness, and the all-too-difficult balance between songs of darkness and joy. A treasure to get your hands on, a pleasure to play with repeated listenings.