2018 has been the year of experimentalism in music. Whether you look at rock, hip-hop, country or jazz, artists of this emerging generation all seem to have one thing in common; nothing that they’ve been taught is making sense to them anymore. And why would it? With the modern technology that is at the disposal of artists of virtually all income levels and backgrounds now, the limits are endless in terms of what someone can do audio-logically with a single note, let alone an entire band.
Traditional music theory no longer holds any relevance other than to show us all of the different walls that exist for us to crumble down brick by brick. What’s been played has been played. Artists like The Jackstones don’t want to make another record that appeases the masses just for the sake of making an A&R department happy, and they don’t have to thanks to the market that indie musicians have built for themselves. Their new record Love Badly is one of several albums that I’ve dubbed worthy of inclusion to my post-21st century pop groundbreakers circle, and actually the first to represent the country genre. I’ve never considered myself to be all that much of a country music fan, but Love Badly isn’t your typical country record, and The Jackstones are far from your typical country band.
We all know that southern California’s music scene is among the most competitive and cutthroat in the entire world. Coming out of San Diego, The Jackstones have had to put up a pretty good fight just to get attention in their own hometown market, let alone the exposure that Love Badly is finding on the international level at the moment. What does it say – that country’s best work this year is coming out of the west coast and not Nashville or somewhere else in the American south? Some might be quick to respond that it’s a sign of the decline in identity and integrity for country music, but I don’t see it that way. If anything, I think it shows us that country isn’t standing still anymore and is growing up with the times as will be required to survive. In other words, The Jackstones and their ambitions are part of what is saving country music from itself.
As futuristic in nature as Love Badly is from a creative standpoint, there aren’t any of the sharp angles that come standard with rough, avant-garde pieces to keep The Jackstones from appealing to mainstream audiences and more casual music fans. And based on how sprawling the content is on this record, I think it would be safe to say that these guys have got plenty more in the tank that they’re going to bide their time in releasing. I’m curious to see what else they’re capable of doing when all bets are off and establishment rules don’t apply, and something tells me that this won’t be the last time I’m reviewing a thrilling, highly buzzed album from these rising country stars.