The sophomore album by Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin, Crushing, delves into an emotional two-year journey and a transition in a relationship. While Jacklin’s personable self-examination remains in her songwriting, Crushing explores the mind, emotions and heartache. Her openness and healthy habit of rejecting expectations carry over from 2016’s Don’t Let the Kids Win, making this album as relatable as it is vivid.
On “Body,” Jacklin weaves a compelling narrative of the moment she decided to break up with her lover and her subsequent thoughts after his departure frothier life. Jacklin paints the picture of the confrontation: “Right there on the Sydney tarmac I/ Threw my luggage down/ I said I’m gonna leave you/ I’m not a good woman when you’re around.”
Jacklin’s words, “get my body back,” are the heart of the track’s sense of empowerment. Although the relationship is over, she wonders where the ex’s intentions will settle afterward. “Do you still have that photograph/ Would you use it to hurt me?” Jacklin sings over top a heavy beat and bass. Even so, “Body” maintains a melancholic undertone to evoke the uncertainty of whether she can ever fully represent herself as an individual. The soft piano mixed with a tired-sounding vocal delivery beautifully intertwines with the lyrical message.
“Head Alone” is a ballad for those trying to resist the suffocating side of love. Jacklin is upfront about her struggle to set boundaries and give herself space. “I don’t want to be touched all the time/ I raised my body up to be mine,” she sings over a slow drumming and upbeat guitar. The track ends in a declarative harmony: “Yeah I’ll say it ’til he understands/ You can love somebody without using your hands.” The fun-loving inflection in Jacklin’s voice brings the track to a liberating close as she sings over swaying guitar.
Post-breakup anthem “Pressure to Party” begins with melodious guitar lines and driving drums and tambourine, making it one of the album’s most physically moving cuts. Every verse begins with, “Pressure to…” as Jacklin lists various social pressures that follow the end of a relationship. It’s refreshing to hear her concluding note of self-awareness, as she resolves to do what she feels is best. In a commanding tone, she sings, “I know I’ve locked myself in my room/ But I’ll open up the door/ And try to love again soon.” The song ends with a joyous shouted chorus.
Jacklin sheds light on the dichotomy of feeling the need to do appease her partner versus wanting to invest in herself on “You Were Right.” Upbeat guitar melodies build with Jacklin’s conviction alongside electrifying cymbal hits, demonstrating Jacklin’s realization: “Started feeling like myself again/ The day I stopped saying your name.”
Jacklin sings about taking part in her ex’s favorite activities now that they aren’t together because she can experience them for herself. On the snappy chorus, Jacklin encompasses the theme in an accessible sing-along quality: “You were right, I liked it/ You were wrong/ I was a good friend.”
Crushing closes with the delicately acoustic “Comfort.” As an ode to her ex-lover, Jacklin sings in a lullaby melody relaying how even though she doesn’t know how he’s doing, she knows he’ll be OK because his friends will be there for him during their breakup. She looks fondly on their years together, but acknowledges “I can’t be the one to hold you/ When I was the one who left.”
Jacklin shows vulnerability with her songwriting on Crushing, but also confidence in pursuing her own desires. The heartfelt and powerful messages carried by charming vocal melodies or anthemic guitar licks make Crushing a memorable experience.
Follow writer Carly Van Den Broeke at Twitter.com/carlyrosevdb.