In this end-of-year series, Rolling Stone AU/NZ celebrates some of the artists who released a significant album in 2023.
Dog, the sophomore album by Jazmine Mary, may not be about your four-legged best friend, but it is about being constant. Perhaps that’s where the dog comes in with their penchant for perpetual love.
It’s a balancing act between the world’s brutal nature but also its extensive beauty; by exploring both, Mary finds the hope in between. Images of windswept hair, grey-skied beaches, and quiet nights by the piano manifest as they create ambient soundscapes to accompany their haunting voice.
Mary’s second album followed on from a death in their life, but they’re not stuck in a claustrophobic room of grief anymore. Instead, they’re learning to cope how they know best. As they sing in “You’re Never Alone if You’ve Got Music”, “If you think you might sink, think again, ’cause music’s at the end.”
A follow-up from their stellar debut album, The Licking of a Tangerine, released in 2021, Dog is vulnerable, enchanting, and true to Mary’s poetic, folk compositions, that exist to make you feel something that may be hiding inside of yourself.
Mary was kind enough to break down each track on their album in greater detail, which you can check out below.
Jazmine Mary’s Dog is out now.
“Dope” is anger and resentment but fermented. Summer can feel like such an aggressive attack when you’re in the thick of it. How are you all walking around unscathed like it isn’t all blowing up? The verses – Jesus is this crazy ladies man and I’ve fallen for the idea of it like everyone else, and he is sitting there while I unravel and telling me that all his ex-girlfriends are crazy and he is perfect, and I’m all in for the idea – disappointing.
I’ve had this intention of becoming a stoner for years now because I know I need to fucking relax, but I just never get around to it. Rich isn’t it not getting around to relax? Anyway, that’s the opening line and the title. I adore the movement of the saxophone (Peter Ruddell) and violin (Dave Khan) in the chorus; it feels very holding of it all.
“It is heavy – but I can’t feel it – because I’m high.” I’m going to leave it at that but I will say, I love seagulls, maybe even romantically.
The opening line of “Wet Mouth” is literal. I did go to the city to a singing competition and maybe I was on the TV. I won’t say which one or anything beyond that because I don’t want to and I don’t have to. I really didn’t think I was going to make it out of that town alive, but I’m so pleased I did. The memory is a liar and a thief. I find that my nostalgia is wildly rose-tinted and I have painted these pictures of my past and self that are completely fabricated. There is a romance to being from somewhere no one you love has been – but the reality is like sand stuck in my teeth.
The choruses of this track for me are less story and beyond that, it’s spiritual and shit. The outro to this song is a sort of cheery funeral march and I knew that I wanted this before going into the studio, I just didn’t know I’d actually get it. It was a really wonderful way to end the recording session with everyone in a room drunkenly singing.
My best friend died of an overdose just before Christmas and I wrote many of the songs with that heavy on my heart, but this one in particular when I was so deep inside that grief and the grief of my friend but also coming to terms with the darkness and grief of a world where we can suffer and lose people like that. Navigating guilt, finding beauty in it all, somehow finding a peace that is “where we come from where we go.”
The line “I want to live a good life and I want to live it clean” was and is a sort of simple mantra. That I want to be in this world, I want to stay here, I want to do it bravely. I want to do it with sobriety and connection and that’s what I’m trying to do. Elizabeth Stokes (The Beths) plays the trumpet and it is very beautiful and special to me. The ending of this song was me standing at one end of the studio screaming with my tongue hanging out of my head. That felt… GOOD.
It’s abandoning all commitment to the weight of it all. The recording of this song was the least enjoyable and it made me hate it for a little while, but we are getting along better now. I like that it feels like two songs or feels glued together. This sort of heavy weight on the chest but a bit of a side glance grin or something. Maybe that’s tension? Yeah, I think that’s tension. Louisa Nicklin now plays in my band and we play it together live so I miss her when I listen to this track. Alas time travel is not possible at this moment.
Sonically this is a new space for me, the way it’s written, the way it’s played, the softness. It’s very uncharted musical territory. I wrote the bones and lyrics to this song sitting on my bed and the whole thing came out at once. I find this way of writing so revealing and devine, like I need to firstly learn the thing I just said and then I need to figure out what the hell it all is. The piano that Peter is playing in the chorus is so dreamy and we put it through this beautiful old chorus echo and I just love the way it bounces around with an incredible lightness that helps transform which is actually pretty pissed off but somehow sexy.
“Salt Lake Desert”
The title of this song is this place I drove in Australia a year or two ago. It’s like this huge dried up lake and it’s entirely salt. It looks like snow but I can confirm I lay down on my belly and licked it and it’s salt. When it’s really windy or stormy the salt will cover bugs, so you just end up with these salt sculptures of bugs who were swept up alive by salt. And it’s not technically a desert but it just goes forever. I felt like I walked across that salt forever. I was there for a purpose and it served – I realised this song there.
“You’re Never Alone if You’ve Got Music”
I adore this sweet little love letter. Many months ago I was telling a friend I was dreadfully depressed and they said something that made me so angry. They said, “At least you have music.” Sad people don’t want solutions and I started writing this as this sort of passive aggressive response and then gosh darn it they were right. And it’s true, you’re never alone if you’ve got music. I know that. Peter produced this one and it has beautiful horns and strings and makes me feel love. We had the luxury of time with the recording of this.
This track is still revealing itself to me. I can only speak to the title. When I was in my grief I committed to wearing only yellow for 30 days. As a sort of healing ritual I guess. I put all my clothes in a bathtub and dyed them. I can’t explain how much this helped.
“Take an Orange”
I feel like one version in a time and place of me wrote this for another version of me and I’m grateful, the recording of this song was so magical for me. It was at Sublime Studios and the puddles were all frozen. We went into the studio at night time and played it all live. There was an improvised element to this, we just recorded it over and over again until the one you hear on the record where we sat in silence once it finished. I remember vividly sitting in that feeling. It’s like death in the rebirth/death/rebirth autumn kind of way. Feels fitting to be the closing track of the record.