Sarah Jackson-Holman – When You Dream

Sarah Jackson-Holman - When You Dream

Yet again Portland’s produced one more fantastic artist to add to the list; I’d even go as far as to say Sarah Jackson-Holman could easily rank in the top ten up-and-coming artists of the year. A twenty-one year old college student, her discovery was downright serendipitous. She had left a comment on Blind Pilot’s myspace page, praising one of their shows that she’d attended and asking if they were going to play nearby soon. Anthony McNamer, the president of Expunged Records, which manages Blind Pilot, idly clicked on her link without thought and ended up listening to the songs she’d posted. He got in touch with her, and that was that. Now, her debut When You Dream has been released on Expunged Records for your listening pleasure.

The title itself, When You Dream, speaks strongly to the album’s recurring motif; it’s undeniably an album of daydreams. While the songs themselves are often of love in all its forms (falling into it and out of it, nostalgia and longing, summer romance and Disney-esque romantics), she wholly breaks free from any of the overbearing weight of heartache or the disgustingly overly-sentimental sugar this often brings to an album’s sound. Instead, she allows her songs to develop into something wonderfully light and gorgeously melodic; it’s all daydreams and reflections that I honestly believe will brilliantly resonate with the majority of listeners.

Jackson-Holman’s a classically trained pianist (evident from the start), and she combines her talent and training with a smokey, jazz voice and poppy melodies to produce an amazingly gorgeous and smooth blend of the three. Both “California Gold Rush” and “Red Ink” showcase her talent as a pianist, her gorgeous voice, and her clever lyrics. “Into The Blue”, airy and light despite being built on the wistfulness and longing that comes from hindsight, stands in good contrast with the track “Cellophane”, which has a darker, grounded edge. And yet she masterfully handles both subjects, so that When You Dream is able to comfortably straddle a wide range of emotions and sounds.

I understand that for some, or even many, lyrics are less important than the song itself; what the vocalist recites could have all the depth and wit of poems written by second graders who are learning about words that rhyme. It should be said, though, that someone who, as Jackson-Holman does in the track “To Anna”, starts off with a line from the poem “The Rose of the World” by William Butler Yeats damn well better follow with a song that’s earned such a lofty beginning. In this case, the words were certainly earned.

When You Dream spans the breadth of moods from dark, bitter, resigned, light, airy, nostalgic, cute; at the album’s worst it remains a good listen and at its best Jackson-Holman’s tracks are stunning.