Australian indie-folk composer and musician Julia Jacklin returns with her second album.
The follow-up to her debut, 2016’s Don’t Let the Kids Win, sophomore effort Crushing doesn’t require too much interpretation, with the usual flowery poetry and romantic metaphors left out in favour of clarity and brutal honesty.
It’s beautiful though, the journey of self-examination following the dissolution of a relationship is delivered with a raw intensity, perfect harmonies and stunning instrumentals.
The opening track is perhaps the starkest – it moodily saunters into focus before the words pack the punches. An unsettling – and partly autobiographical – account of a breakup, the song takes place on the airport tarmac whereby “the police met the plane”.
A brazen introduction, it’s sultry and vulnerably delivered, a tale of naïve and childish antics, “but you’re more kid than criminal” paired with disappointment and potential humiliation as she recalls an event involving a personal photograph. Still, by the end, Jacklin manages to offer glimmers of hope and retribution.
Produced by Burke Reid (Courtney Barnett, Liam Finn), the record is as intimate as it is fearless. Recorded at The Grove Studios in London, enjoy soul-bearing and authentic dreamy indie-pop at its finest with inspirational hints of indie favourite Cat Power or big band legend Doris Day.
Head Alone champions spirited independence and the singer’s requests for space. Her swaying folk guitar underlies the steely appeal “I don’t wanna be touched all the time” and follows it through to breaking point “So I’ll say it ’til he understands. You can love somebody without using your hands”.
In her own words, Jacklin stated: “I wrote most of it on tour, singing it to myself, looking out the window on endless car journeys. It’s not a song that comes from a singular experience. It came from two years of feeling like the space around me shrinking to the point where I couldn’t even raise my arms… This song is me raising my arms and running into an open field […] the good people in your life will listen, adapt and still love you.”
Pressure to Party’s upbeat piano instrumental contrasts with the anxious lyrics as Jacklin details the perils of well-meaning friends and re-entering the dating pool.
The lyrics “pressure to party… pressure to feel fine… pressure to go strike out on your own, pressure to learn from being alone, pressure to not leave it for too long…” and more, leave her promising anyone who’ll listen to “try to love again soon”.
Serving as a sort of progression of Pressure to Party, in my mind at least When the Family Flies In is a beautiful ballad and reminder that you don’t have to suffer alone even if you feel embarrassed admitting it out loud, with the relatable delivery of “You know it’s bad when the family flies in, just to stand by your side…”.
Continuing its navigation through the ups and downs of loss and loneliness, the concise focus of the opening tracks subsides a little, allowing the unpredictable blurring of human emotions to creep in and change the pace.
Good Guy sees the narrator finally meet someone who might help her move on – at least for one evening. The opening chords conjure up an image from a rom-com like a hazy dawn as the sun creeps through the blinds.
Its dreamy instrumental is so much more though, clashing with the brutal realism of the lyrics “Tell me I’m the love of your life, just for a night, even if you don’t feel it.” … “I don’t care for the truth when I’m lonely, I don’t care if you lie… come on breathe in, breathe out, you’re still a good guy.”
You Were Right is euphorically triumphant and upbeat, as Jacklin appears to reject the partner who makes her feel small and finally “started feeling like myself again”.
Essentially Crushing is a lot of things: crushingly honest, crushingly relatable, crushingly bold and brilliant.
2. Head Alone
3. Pressure to Party
4. Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You
5. When the Family Flies In
7. Good Guy
8. You Were Right
9. Turn Me Down
See Julia Jacklin live across the UK in March and April, and at Latitude Festival in July 2019. [Find tickets]
Listen to Crushing on Spotify: