Julia Jacklin

Julia Jacklin

The second full-length album from Australian singer/songwriter Julia Jacklin, Crushing embodiesevery possible meaning of its title word. It’s an album formed from sheer intensity of feeling, anin-the-moment narrative of heartbreak and infatuation. And with her storytelling centered on bodiesand crossed boundaries and smothering closeness, Crushing reveals how our physical experience ofthe world shapes and sometimes distorts our inner lives.“This album came from spending two years touring and being in a relationship, and feeling like Inever had any space of my own,” says the Melbourne-based artist. “For a long time I felt like myhead was full of fear and my body was just this functional thing that carried me from point A to B,and writing these songs was like rejoining the two.”The follow-up to her 2016 debut Don’t Let the Kids Win, Crushing finds Jacklin continuallyacknowledging what’s expected of her, then gracefully rejecting those expectations. As a result, thealbum invites self-examination and a possible shift in the listener’s way of getting around theworld—an effect that has everything to do with Jacklin’s openness about her own experience.“I used to be so worried about seeming demanding that I’d put up with anything, which I think iscommon—you want to be chill and cool, but it ends up taking so much of your emotional energy,”says Jacklin. “Now I’ve gotten used to calling out things I’m not okay with, instead of just buryingmy feelings to make it easier on everyone. I’ve realized that in order to keep the peace, you have tospeak up for yourself and say what you really want.”Produced by Burke Reid (Courtney Barnett, The Drones) and recorded at The Grove Studios (abushland hideaway built by INXS’ Garry Gary Beers), Crushing sets Jacklin’s understated defianceagainst a raw yet luminous sonic backdrop. “In all the songs, you can hear every sound from everyinstrument; you can hear my throat and hear me breathing,” she says. “It was really important to methat you can hear everything for the whole record, without any studio tricks getting in the way.”On the album-opening lead single “Body,” Jacklin proves the power of that approach, turning out amesmerizing vocal performance even as she slips into the slightest murmur. A starkly composedportrait of a breakup, the song bears an often-bracing intimacy, a sense that you’re right in the roomwith Jacklin as she lays her heart out. And as “Body” wanders and drifts, Jacklin establishes Crushingas an album that exists entirely on its own time, a work that’s willfully unhurried.From there, Crushing shifts into the slow-building urgency of “Head Alone,” a pointed andelectrifying anthem of refusal (sample lyric: “I don’t want to be touched all the time/I raised mybody up to be mine”). “As a woman, in my case as a touring musician, the way you’re touched isdifferent from your male bandmates—by strangers and by those close to you,” notes Jacklin. On thefull-tilt, harmony-spiked “Pressure to Party,” she pushes toward another form of emotionalfreedom. “When you come out of a relationship, there’s so much pressure to act a certain way,” saysJacklin. “First it’s like, ‘Oh, you’ve gotta take some time for yourself’...but then if you take toomuch time it’s, ‘You’ve gotta get back out there!’ That song is just my three-minute scream, sayingI’m going to do what I need to do, when I need to do it.” Crushing also shows Jacklin’s autonomy onsongs like “Convention,” an eye-rolling dismissal of unsolicited advice, presented in elegantlysardonic lyrics (“I can tell you won’t sleep well, if you don’t teach me how to do it right”).
Elsewhere on Crushing, Jacklin brings her exacting reflection to songs on loss. With its transportiveharmonies and slow-burning guitar solo, “Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You” ponders theheartache in fading affection (“I want your mother to stay friends with mine/I want this feeling topass in time”). Meanwhile, on “Turn Me Down”—an idiosyncratically arranged track embeddedwith hypnotic guitar tones—Jacklin gives an exquisitely painful glimpse at unrequited devotion (“Hetook my hand, said I see a bright future/I’m just not sure that you’re in it”). “That song destroyedme in the studio,” says Jacklin of “Turn Me Down,” whose middle section contains a particularlydevastating vocal performance. “I remember lying on the floor in a total state between what felt likeendless takes, and if you listen it kind of sounds like I’m losing my mind.” And on “When theFamily Flies In,” Jacklin shares her first ever piano-driven piece, a beautifully muted elegy for thesame friend to whom she dedicated Don’t Let the Kids Win. “There are really no words to do justiceto what it feels like to lose a friend,” says Jacklin. “It felt a bit cheap to even try to write a songabout it, but this one came out on tour and it finally felt okay to record.Despite its complexity, Crushing unfolds with an ease that echoes Jacklin’s newfound self-reliance asan artist. Originally from the Blue Mountains, she grew up on her parents’ Billy Bragg and DorisDay records and sang in musicals as a child, then started writing her own songs in her early 20s.“With the first album I was so nervous and didn’t quite see myself as a musician yet, but aftertouring for two years, I’ve come to feel like I deserve to be in that space,” she says.Throughout Crushing, that sense of confidence manifests in one of the most essential elements of thealbum: the captivating strength of Jacklin’s lyrics. Not only proof of her ingenuity and artisticgenerosity, Jacklin’s uncompromising specificity and infinitely unpredictable turns of phraseultimately spring from a certain self-possession in the songwriting process.“As I was making this album there was sort of a slow loosening of pressure on myself,” Jacklin says.“There’ve been some big life changes for me over the last few years, and I just found it too tiring totry to cover things up with a lot of metaphors and word trickery. I just wanted to lay it all out thereand trust that, especially at such a tense moment in time, other people might want to hear a littlevulnerability.”

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