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Love Letter To A Record: Waxflower’s Tristan Higginson On Jimmy Eat World’s ‘Clarity’

Written by Emmy Mack on September 8, 2019

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Tristan Higginson, Waxflower – Clarity by Jimmy Eat World (1999)

It’s mid-2018 and I’m having a regularly scheduled panic attack on my bedroom floor, desperately trying to calm my racing thoughts and heart. A $12.99/month Headspace subscription can only get you so far, and I’ve yet to be let through the wondrous gates of prescription medication. So, what do I turn to? Between deep breaths, I take a finger off of my pulse and hit play on Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity.

‘Table For Glasses’ opens the door to the record. As if sensing my condition, it does so slowly and quietly, Jim Adkins comforting me with a melody that, under less emo circumstances, could be pulled straight from a songbook of children’s lullabies. By the end of the track’s four-minute run time, I’ve been gently removed from the grips of my anxiety and placed in the familiar embrace of my favourite album.

I adore this record. It’s helped me in a handful of ways over the last few years. On a musical level, it has played a large hand in shaping my songwriting ethos. There is an unabashed simplicity to the songwriting and performances on display. It’s obvious that everyone is here to serve the songs rather than to validate themselves as a player. That validation, in my opinion, comes as a by-product of the band working together to present something larger than the sum of its parts. Tracks like ‘Just Watch The Fireworks’, ‘Believe In What You Want’ and ‘A Sunday’ show a restraint that allows Adkins’ melancholy storytelling to dig deep. Every song on this record would still thrive if it were stripped back to a single vocal and an acoustic guitar, testament to each of their carefully crafted melodic foundations. This is something I’ve tried to take on with my own songwriting.

Previously, I would obsess over an instrumental in Logic, then struggle to write vocals after the fact. Now my main songwriting tool is the voice memos app on my phone, the nearest guitar and my voice. Everything is written at the same time and vocal melody holds precedence, ensuring that the best possible melodic base is established for an instrumental to be formed around.

On a personal level, Clarity has been a dependable constant throughout one of the hardest years of my life. Offering melancholic empathy during the downfall of a relationship, and calming soundscapes like ’12.23.95’, ‘Goodbye Sky Harbour’ & ’For Me This Is Heaven’ to accompany me through periods of panic. Adkins’ lyricism often rides a fine line between specificity and obscurity, providing a canvas for the listener to project their own experiences and feelings. Lines like “If I don’t let myself be happy now then when?”, and “It’s my own advice I need” have stayed with me long after my initial listen, not for being all that profound, but for being there when I needed them the most. It’s comforting to know that like those lines, Clarity will always be there.
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After releasing their standout debut single ‘Cut Your Teeth’, Brisbane-based pop-punk band Waxflower have just unveiled their melodious new single ‘Back To Back’, produced by Stevie Knight (Yours Truly, Stand Atlantic, Between You & Me).

In the midst of a homegrown punk resurgence dominated by lo-fi production values and ever so slightly off-key vocals, this feels like a breath of fresh air in the mosh pit. It’s infectious Aussie-inflected pop-punk with a joyfully polished sheen, reminiscent of the glory days of Kisschasy and Short Stack but with an earnest, modern edge.

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