Review: Julia Jacklin’s Crushing is a deep observation of intimate relationships

The Aussie singer/songwriter explores autonomy, as well as power dynamics between lovers, while elevating the drama of longing and resentment

Rating: NNNN

On Body, the first track of Julia Jacklin’s new album, she asks the question haunting a generation: “Do you have that photograph? Would you use it to hurt me?” 

The follow-up album to the Aussie singer/songwriter’s 2016 debut, Don’t Let The Kids Win, is a deeply relevant collection of songs for this #MeToo era. It explores autonomy, as well as power dynamics between women, men and lovers. But Jacklin does not pound the listener over the head with these themes. Instead her music’s intensely personal focus draws us in, makes us feel and relate. 

Crushing is an apt title – the album moves between longing “crushing” and a “crushing” resistance toward the stifling weight intimate relationships can gather. 

Most of the tracks are stripped back, intentionally frill-less indie pop, inspired by spending two years on the road with her boyfriend as she toured her debut. Loneliness permeates the entire album, which is full of contemplation and self-examination. Jacklin sings like she’s reading entries from her journal back to herself. The confessional quality is amplified by minimal, unobtrusive production that places her superb voice and her acoustic guitar forward. 

Jacklin elevates the drama that can be found in the mundane: simmering resentments, unresolved arguments, untold truths and the inevitable aftermath. Her voice is cool and level, even as sorrow bubbles underneath. On When The Family Flies In, she finds herself sitting alone in her Corolla talking to her lover. Nothing about the conversation they’re having is happy. Lo-fi sound and quaint piano add to the mournfulness of the song. Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You sees her reconciling how to love her partner while familiarity has pushed him off the pedestal she once had him on. Even on the comparatively bouncier and more upbeat songs, like Pressure To Party, in which she’s playing the “I’m newly single and loving life” game, her misery is palpable. 

The sequencing is perfect, moving the narrative from the numb discomfort of Body to the resigned acceptance of final track Comfort. 

Crushing, like love, is a journey worth taking. 

Top track: Body

Julia Jacklin plays the Horseshoe on April 28. See listing.

@nowtoronto | @ChakaVGrier

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