Julia Jacklin has returned with a heart-achingly beautiful follow up to her 2016 debut. Declan O’Dwyer delivers his verdict on Crushing.
Julia Jacklin sets the tone for Crushing right from the beginning of the opening track ‘Body’. A recurring drumbeat is heard throughout that compliments some subtle bass guitar work, and in the process creating a sombre type mood.
Crushing could be called a concept album as it is deeply personal about a relationship break-up. On this opening track the author tells us how the guy she was with lights up a cigarette on a domestic flight, resulting in him being sent home.
She tells us that he seemed very proud that the cops were waiting for him in the airport on the return flight back to Sydney. This gave her a moment of clarity to see through his childish ways, resulting in her telling him that she was leaving him. It wasn’t as simple and clean as that however as he had something over her.
“I remember early days when you took my camera… Turned to me, twenty three, naked on your bed… Looking straight at you… Do you still have that photograph? Would you use it to hurt me?”
The song ends with her repeating these final lines a number of times:
“I guess it’s just my life… and it’s just my body”
She sings this in a resigned tone that suggests while if these were leaked it would be a massive deal to her but in the grand scheme of things, in this world it barely registers.
This song and indeed the whole record could be classed as alt country-Americana. There is something in her voice, it conveys deep feeling and is easily recognisable.
During this album she sings in both present and past tense about her relationship so as not to confuse the listener, even though the break up happens on the opening track, she veers between pre and post break up quite regularly throughout. The intro to ‘Head Alone’ is more upbeat. Lyrically however it is not as she depicts herself suffocating in the relationship and needs more personal space.
“C’mon give me the room tonight… you know I told you before that you hold me too tight… and my head alone just wants to say. I don’t want to be touched all the time… I raised my body up to be mine”
If Julia Jacklin is to have a festival favourite this summer it’s hard to look beyond ‘Pressure to Party’, it’s the liveliest number on Crushing. It’s about the pressure of pretending that you’re moving on with your life after the emotional upheaval of a break-up.
“Pressure to feel fine after the fact… out on the dance floor with my body back. The biggest pressure she seems to face is the internal pressure of moving on.”
‘Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You’ is a somewhat sad resignation to the fact that now she knows him so well there are no surprises anymore in their relationship. It’s almost like they are the one person.
“In to the darkness or is it the light… should I be waking up or finding a place to sleep tonight… Who will I be now that you’re no longer next to me?”
‘When The Family Flies In’ is the track where she is at her lowest. There is a lovely use of piano in this track and her voice is beautiful. Lyrically this is really strong, on this track her depression is out in the open. Her family have visited to rally around her while she feels at her lowest.
You can almost visualise the nylon strings on the guitar throughout ‘Convention’. On this track she seems to be in a recovery mode. He is giving her some drunken advice at some dinner party where she has a social standing and starts to feel a bit embarrassed. The closing lines say a lot:
“Call me a ride, I can’t walk home… can’t stand the pain from these shoes I’ve now outgrown… It’s not hard to read between the lines as what the shoes represent.”
On ‘You Were Right’ her recovery continues. She examines some of his former recommendations on music, food, etc. and in hindsight pretty much agrees with him, though she is exploring them on her own terms and therefore not being pressurised in to liking them.
“Started listening to your favourite band… The night I stopped listening to you… You were always trying to force my hand… But now I’m listening because I want to… You were right, I liked it… You were wrong, I was a good friend…”
However by the end of the track she has already moved on:
“Started feeling like myself again… the day I stopped saying your name… We can try and start it up again… but it’s never gonna feel the same”
The sound of a gently strung guitar ushers in the final track ‘Comfort’. The pace does not change throughout as the music on this track seems to be secondary to her words.
On this she is genuinely concerned about his wellbeing and wishes the best for him, while also hoping that he is not worrying too much about her pain. It is both mature and refreshing.
On records that explore these matters there is usually a winner, which is naturally the author. Jacklin does not pretend there are any winners. On this album Julia Jacklin comes across as a real talent. A gifted, expressionate songwriter.
At the risk of repeating myself, one of her most powerful tools is that voice. It is distinctive and captivating.
Songs worth putting on repeat: ‘Body’, ‘Pressure to Party’ and ‘Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You’.