Secret Meeting score: 86
by Joseph Purcell and Phil Scarisbrick
Antipodean female artists are creating quite the impression of late: Aldous Harding and Nadia Reid have gained notoriety amongst adoring alt-folk fans while Lorde’s mainstream appeal shows no signs of abating. Yet arguably the most consistently prolific has been Australian gem, Julia Jacklin. Fresh from 2016’s delightful debut Don’t Let the Kids Win and last year’s distorted eponymous debut with her garage punk side project, Phantastic Ferniture, she returns with sophomore record, Crushing. A poignant, intimate affair that finds a mature Jacklin embracing the heartache and isolation that enveloped her during the album’s creation.
Written during the two years that Jacklin toured her debut, Crushing finds her looking at several of the experiences she went through in that period, including the isolation of being on tour and being a young woman in the ‘boys club’ of the music industry. The overbearing theme though is her willingness to tackle the emotional strain of the break up she initiated. A side of the coin that is often overlooked in the traditional ‘break-up record’.
Opening slow burner, Body, is an overt recollection of an events that pushed her into ending her relationship. She reflects on details including an arrest on a plane, and a candid photo taken seemingly without permission. You get the sense that Jacklin felt completely powerless as she strains, “I guess it’s just my life/And it’s just my body“. Head Alone bustles along a jagged beat, with Jacklin’s emotional intensity intertwined perfectly with the sunshine guitars and punchy drumbeat at its back as Jacklin sings, ‘I don’t want to be touched all the time/I raised my body up to be mine.’ The song epitomising the essence of the album, as she combines a weariness of touring life life with a passionate defiance.
The rollicking Pressure to Party bursts in, described by Jacklin as the ‘feeble reaction’ to post break up blues. Jacklin spews out the stricken howls of a wounded partner looking to consign the angst of a fallen relationship to the past- the music perfectly reflecting her heartbreak as she tries to square being still attached to her former lover with trying to function as an individual – ‘Pressure to go strike out on your own/Pressure to learn from being alone’.
Centrepiece, When The Family Flies In, is a majestic ballad, and certainly could be Jacklin’s finest work to date. Stripped back to a gentle piano backing, her vocal soars- it’s unrestricted and conveys her exacerbation. The intimate vocal makes the song feel brutally honest – the strains underlining the emotional impact that weighed upon her during the record’s composition.
Citing the honesty and intimacy of Neil Young and Bill Callahan’s work as inspirations for the record, the ‘open wound’ approach has allowed her to display a real maturity both as a songwriter and a human being. Her willingness to be overt about her fallibility, but confident enough to stand by her convictions, makes Crushing a thoroughly engaging record. The fact that the melodies and deliveries are so achingly beautiful is the icing on the cake. Crushing is a triumph.