Deena Lynch aka Jaguar Jonze, who gained national attention in Australia last year for her performance at Australia’s 2nd annual Eurovision Decides contest with Rabbit Hole, has landed on our radar again with the release of her sophomore EP Antihero.
The EP is a timely release for the fiercely proud Taiwanese-Australian, who like so many other people of Asian heritage was vilified during the height of the pandemic in Australia last year, as if covid-19 was somehow her fault. To make matters worse, Lynch was actually hospitalised in Sydney with covid-19 for 40 days after returning from the US. Lynch recently reflected on it by saying “I had a fever for five weeks straight, and excruciating chest pains, and the music industry was completely decimated. For weeks I had no voice; I couldn’t sing, and for months I couldn’t stand up or walk for too long. My mental health suffered.”
While she has almost made a full recovery, Lynch has not forgotten the hate and racism she suffered from friends and trolls looking for a place to vent their anger and frustration. To combat the hate, Lynch turned to her love of music as an outlet and set in motion songs for her debut EP Diamonds and Liquid Gold (2020) amazingly while still in hospital.
In many ways, the extraordinary attention she received last year around covid was served only to amp up more drama in a new direction by mid-year, this time as she took on sexism and abuse in the Australian music industry. Lynch , herself a victim of sexual harrassment, helped other victims share their stories of abuse by men in places of power within the music industry. Interestingly, by helping give women a safe place to call out sexual predators, Lynch became inspired musically to release her own version of Britney Spears Toxic as a form of cathartic release.
It’s fair to say Lynch is an intuitive young woman now in control of her own turmoil. This is where I find myself in 2021 as a new fan of Lynch’s alt-pop cyberpunk world. You get a sense that all her most recent experiences have somehow accumulated in her new five song EP Antihero.
By dealing with a multitude of destructive forces in her life head-on, Antihero has all but helped Lynch to reclaim her own identity and power. On the EP’s opening track Tessellations, we find Lynch trying to rid herself of the unwanted toxic patterns of her life. The need for change is quite evident lyrically as she begs us to work together instead of opposing one another. On DeadAlive Lynch highlights the anxiety and uncertainty of the pandemic and the peculiar things that swirl in our head. Moreover on Curled In we are reminded that it’s often easier to overcome our fears by letting someone in even though it may not appear to be the right thing to do. Then there is Murder a strange love song. I’m not even sure we can call it that as it explores the boundaries of relationships that should never be crossed. On the EP end track Astronaut, anxiety rears its ugly head, something that has haunted Lynch for most for her life.
Visually the accompanying music videos for all five tracks helps heighten the tension and release Lynch feels as the cyberpunk ‘antihero’ character she created for this project. Take for instance the visuals for the anxiety driven Astronaut, where Lynch is shown lost in the vastness of space but trapped within her space suit where Lynch sings “Eyes wide open / I know my suit gives me air / But why am I choking, why am I holding on?” This end track and its claustrophobic nature seemingly mirrors her real life anxieties but once free of her suit (at the end of the video) she is able to breathe and liberate herself once again.
In short, I wish Antihero was a longer play. It would have been definitely in the running for my album of the year. Alas it’s not, but here’s hoping anyway that now with two EPs under her belt that she next tackles an extended project. Yet despite that one small criticism I have to say I absolutely love Antihero, especially its inspired ‘spaghetti western’ soundscape, bass grooves and wonderful layered synths. This is something Lynch apparently deliberately honed for her EP and it suits this self confessed ‘eastern cowgirl’ to a tee.
She’s wonderful; I really like her songwriting, imaginative soundscapes and vocals. And poor Deena, having to suffer from such a severe case of Covid! It’s also awful that Asian people were subjected to discrimination and abuse in Australia just like in America.