Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin’s sophomore album, Crushing, observes the complexities and authenticity of love in herself and in a (former) lover. From start to finish, she bares her soul with a humble vulnerability and evokes unique intimacy with her listener. Jacklin is accompanied by the simplicity of instrumentation, favoring stand-out vocal inflections to appeal to fragility and softness.
Jacklin opens her narrative at a Sydney tarmac with “Body”; she has reservations about leaving her significant other, ultimately forced with “heading to the city to get [her] body back.” The track begins with a constant and simple drum beat and bass, built upon by layers of melancholic piano melodies that support Jacklin’s imagery of confusion and heartbreak.
Jacklin’s heartbreak and suffering is redefined in Crushing as an attempt to give the title a layered and heavy meaning. Jacklin continues the motif of the body in “Head Alone,” stating that she doesn’t “want to be touched all the time, I raise my body up to be mine.” Jacklin empowers herself with an intimacy that is “without using your hands.” Fatigued by the superficial nature of modern-day romance, Jacklin harmonizes with upbeat guitar melodies with hauntingly soulful and powerful vocals. “Pressure to Party” captures the anxiety of getting over heartbreak by “trying to love again soon” underneath the thumb of all the various “pressures” of family, friends, and the self.
“Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You” showcases Jacklin’s sincerity and emotional fragility in the most vulnerable moments of Crushing. This five minute track begins with a slow drum beat and simmering guitar layers, progressively becoming heavier as Jacklin repeats “don’t know how to keep loving you, now that I know you so well.” She repeats this line in desperation and confusion, conveying grievance and acceptance with captivating vocals that will make you shed tears as even the fullest of hearts will be ‘crushed’ in this song.
“When The Family Flies In” is a melancholic piano ballad that builds on remorse in remembrance of a friend; Jacklin instills the necessary notes to send a final goodbye without flourish. “Turn Me Down” is an album highlight that showcases Jacklin’s uniquely emotive fragility and powerful vocals and lyrics. The listener sees her on a highway instead of a Sydney tarmac with another flight or fight response to heartbreak, demonstrating Jacklin’s skilled songwriting and storytelling.
Jacklin finds “Comfort” in the album’s closing; Jacklin imagines a former lover getting through daily struggles post-break-up. Her subtle vocals are supported by soft acoustic guitar as she ends the album with the line “I can’t be the one to hold you when I was the one who left.” With utmost sincerity, Jacklin delivers a captivating 40 minute narrative of heartbreak that is appropriately very Crushing.
You can listen to the full album on NPR here.
Janelle Chen is currently electrical engineering major at UC Santa Cruz. She has a lifelong passion in music and writing and recently embarked on her personal bandcamp journey.