The Lowdown: Australian Julia Jacklin took her introspective songwriting and rock-country tracks all around the world with the acclaim of her debut album, Don’t Let the Kids Win, back in 2016. While this first album confronted coming of age and building up confidence in Jacklin’s talents and individuality, her new record, Crushing, is rediscovering what about herself she may have buried during a long-term relationship, without erasing the experiences that it created. She uses the body and the spaces it consumes and shrinks within as a driving theme throughout Crushing, uncovering the journeys her own body has taken as a romantic partner, a friend, a woman, and a world-touring musician.
The Good: Jacklin’s vocals are central to each track’s minimal, guitar-heavy production, exhibiting not only her words, but her breaths and her sighs. The clarity of her voice lends to more honest anecdotes. Devoid of metaphors or too much poetic language, Jacklin is a reliable narrator of her own story. Crushing begins with “Body”, a somber, chilling tale of Jacklin’s partner getting them kicked off of a domestic flight. It’s a catalyst for the rest of the record, causing Jacklin to leave the relationship, “heading to the city to get my body back.”
On “Head Alone”, a whimsical, Courtney Barnett-like twang and a quest for a full-length mirror turns into an explosive revelation as Jacklin insistently pleads, “I’ll say it ‘til he understands/ You can love somebody without using your hands.” The similarly upbeat “Pressure to Party” is a rollicking response to the inevitable post-breakup question, “Why don’t you get back out there?” The heartbreak embedded in these tracks is magnified through the ballad “Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You”, during which Jacklin laments a relationship that has exceeded its expiration date, mourning the home she and her partner built together, the feeling of sleeping next to someone, and the friendship their mothers formed.
The Bad: After beginning with a balance between thumping rock and solemn tenderness, Crushing drags at its halfway point, capturing less attention with a string of soft, down-tempo tracks. Jacklin interrupts her slow jams with humor about a man and a microphone on “Convention” and a soulful groove on “Good Guy”. The sadness and regret on “Comfort” is an almost discomforting way to end the album, but it’s also a reminder of how human and complex Jacklin’s narrative strives to be.
The Verdict: Crushing is by and large a breakup album, but it’s more a reckoning with one’s mysterious and daunting personal potential than a reflection on someone else. Each track, in one way or another, returns to Jacklin examining her body. It’s her account of trying to stand on her own two feet and admitting that she still wobbles every once in a while. A woman realizing her body’s agency and abilities is motivating, but it’s also scary enough for her to find herself considering abandoning it altogether. Much like last month’s Heard It in a Past Life by rapidly rising pop star Maggie Rogers, Crushing shows that 2019 has begun with women prioritizing their bodies, refusing to hand over their ownership to anybody else.
Essential Tracks: “Body”, “Head Alone”, “Pressure to Party”, and “Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You”