It’s clear that just one song into her highly anticipated sophomore release Crushing, Julia Jacklin possesses herself with a quiet but resolute confidence. Body is a hauntingly beautiful opener, an almost jarring start to an album with artwork that boasts the smiling 28-year-old clad in a neon green top and eyeshadow to match. The 5 minute slow burn is an intensely intimate introduction, but one that gets straight to the point: Crushing is about the worst parts of a relationship, which, naturally, make the best parts of an album.
Even in her most naked of moments (which often happen metaphorically, but in Body, happen literally), Jacklin holds steady in the consequences that stem from an inevitable relationship breakdown. Attempting to reclaim parts of yourself in the digital age (in Jacklin’s case, private photos) seems near impossible. The subdued repetition of the closing line “I guess it's just my life / and it's just my body” effortlessly glide over the slow-burn hum of bass and kick drum, the two continuing on into an extended outro that gives the weight of the lyrics time to resonate. The dismissiveness of Jacklin’s total lack of control ripple out as both a painful reminder of her past and an attempt at consolation; the omission of a conclusion and closure equally as devastating because we know there is none to offer.
Jacklin's narration moves seamlessly between relaying her personal experiences and her own assessments of them, which work to build an entirely encompassing journey from end to end. This deep-dive storytelling continues into the self-reflective Head Alone—an exploration of the intertwining contrasts between head and heart. Jacklin digs at the conflict of finding a balance between submissiveness and assertiveness (“Cause I could stand on a chair / Put it back by the table before you get there”) in the three-minute track. This breakdown in physical and verbal communication flawless in its lyrical delivery, reiterating her inhibitions in articulating personal boundaries despite understanding, theoretically, what she wants. Hints of confidence build throughout the verses, coming to a peak at the end of the track with yet another brilliant closing line: “I'll say it 'till he understands, you can love somebody without using your hands” echoing out over blues guitar and clambering hi-hats, a triumphant moment that soars both vocally and spiritually.
Though Jacklin’s mini-stories unfold on a deeply personal level, there is a familiarity that weaves its way not only through Body and Head Alone, but Crushing as a whole. There is a strong sense of female identity inherent to her experiences, a notion that underpins many of the other themes that emerge throughout the record. These tracks acutely sum up the often internalised and dismissed struggles of navigating male prerogatives that feel all too routine. The experiences are personal but they are non-exclusive, and it’s within this shared understanding and basic humanness that Jacklin is able to connect so deeply with her audience.
The instrumental on the record often feel like a slow rumble of sound that gently propel the words into motion. Peaks and troughs match the intensity of Jacklin’s lyrics, with aching chords and a drum beat that rarely strolls faster than walking pace feeling particularly true to Jacklin’s folk streak. The brooding blues guitar, however, is momentarily put on hold for the two more upbeat moments in the record in Pressure to Party and You Were Right. The former an ironic anthem about the pressures of being forced to put yourself after a break up before you’re ready and trying to understanding if there ever is a perfect way to move on. The later a smirky quip at enjoying all the things you were introduced to during a relationship after the break-up.
The two tracks, paired with Head Alone, make up the most optimistic of moments in Crushing. These highs mimic brief moments of relief, but are soon contrasted by the devastating lows of tracks like Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You and When The Family Flies In, both detailing the ideas of loss in different ways. Though it seems that she is endlessly navigating murky waters, Jacklin does so with an unwavering sense of emotional awareness. This important distinction makes Crushing more weighted than her debut record. Now bearing the toll two years of near-constant touring as a solo female artist and both the positive and negative experiences that come with it, Jacklin is older and wiser in almost every sense of the term.
It’s this blooming maturity that offers catharsis for both artist and audience, providing comfort in the many flaws of modern life and love. The album is stripped of romanticisms and unnecessary embellishments to reveal not only the harshness of reality, but the importance of self-discovery and self-reliance in the face of it. There is no clear cut solution on offer, but Jacklin invites us to embrace the process nonetheless.
At the close of the record, it’s clear that the aptly named Crushing is more than another break-up album. Crushing is important. It is a collection of reminders to be unafraid to feel and to think for yourself, even if it means losing a few people along the way.
You can catch Julia Jacklin perform her latest songs during her national album tour in March. Check out the dates below:
Tuesday, 5th March
UOW Unibar, Wollongong (With Olympia & Annie Hamilton)
Wednesday, 6th March
ANU, Canberra (With Olympia & Annie Hamilton)
Saturday, 9th March
The Triffid, Brisbane (With Olympia & Asha Jefferies)
Thursday, 14th March
The Forum, Melbourne (With Olympia & Robert Muinos)
Friday, 15th March
Metro Theatre, Sydney (With Olympia & Annie Hamilton)
Saturday, 16th March
Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle (With Olympia & Annie Hamilton)