Kirin J Callinan | Feature

Alex Cameron Donny Benet Feature Artists Jack Ladder Kirin J Callinan

Dangerous, Cheeky and Brilliant. Kirin J Callinan is many things, but it appears that he might just be a musical gift to the realms of pop, rock, country and whatever other genres he decides to his glitter-encrusted fingers into. Before anything else, Kirin was involved in a media scandal several years ago where he exposed himself on the red carpet of the ARIAs. Overall, the thing blew over quickly and was nothing more than the remnants of tabloid culture reaching out to milk an artist’s cheek for outrage. This paints an image of Kirin’s persona that quite accurately reflects that of his character on record, especially on that of 2017’s ‘Bravado’.

‘Bravado’ sees Kirin fully indulging in the excessive highs and lows of pop in a traditionalist sense. Drugs, mood swings, glory, childhood and cowboys run free across this 10 track masterwork that serves as an ode to the superficial and vapid radio of the ’90s ('Living Each Day' and 'My Moment'), as well as channelling timeless songwriting techniques (just see the title track for no better example). Continuing in the vein of scandal, Kirin was founded to be ridiculed by Jimmy Fallon for his standout cut ‘Big Enough’ with Alex Cameron, Jimmy Barnes and Molly Lewis. This ultimately ended in Kirin’s favour as the song has become both a meme and a cult classic. I could talk about the record for days, but it just needs to be heard for oneself.

Regardless, Kirin initially debuted in 2013 with his effort ‘Embracism’, which serves as an impressive first release for a new artist, and is a must for fans. Kirin also established himself within the Sydney songwriter scene alongside recording his debut. He did so by becoming a principal member of Jack Ladder and the Dreamlanders, alongside contemporary, Donny Benet. And would then feature on Benet’s subsequent record. We see here the emergence of what I like to call ‘The Four Horsemen’. In that, these are four gifted songwriters emerging from Sydney’s indie scene with respective yet intertwined styles (the remaining two will be getting separate articles). This pseudo group have all proven to both be reliable in their output, and consistent in the quality.

After his media fiasco and meme status, Kirin retreated into isolation. He returned after two years with his 2019 covers record, ‘Return to Center’. A glorious exploration and expansion upon the artists that influenced him, as well as making for a statement on Kirin through something than the greater sum of its parts. The concept of the record is again, utter genius, in both that it shows Kirin returning to his origins as both a songwriter and person, his centre. As well as returning all the equipment used to create the record to Guitar Center as per their return policy, as he’s returning to center. The record most prominently includes a cover of The Waterboys’ ‘The Whole of the Moon’, to which I prefer over the original, as Kirin turns things up to 11. Turning the song from a radio pop-rock ballad into a soaring, ecstatic love song. Other highlights include ‘The Homosexual’, and ‘Vienna’.

Kirin has proven himself to be boundary-pushing in terms of both Pop, Rock, and social boundaries (see Interview). Much like the artwork for Bravado, Kirin is taking the piss, on both the industry and the culture. In doing so, he’s gained fans such as Mac Demarco, and there are no illusions as to why. He truly is brilliant.

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Featured Albums: Kirin J Callinan

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