From the outside of a diary we observe nothing but casual scratches and marks of use on deep brown leather. Gently a hand moves to it, and with intention flicks to the next available blank page. A pen moves swiftly to and fro. Ink enters the page not by any requirement of physics, but seemingly through the weight of the deliberation behind it. Lines cross and titles sit unassumingly, until the sign off they reach outwards; the cover is closed and again the aged leather holds our gaze.
Following up her 2016 debut Don’t Let the Kids Win, Julia Jacklin positions herself earnestly at a desk lit by a single tungsten lamp, jotting down the individual anecdotes that collate into a portrayal of non-linear growth. On Crushing, rather than having a single muse or inspiration around which the tracks are laid, she instead sets out each with intentional disparity*, binding them together with familiar instrumentation and highlighted vocals that create an undeniable sense of authenticity.
Due to the structure of the album, there appears to be, at least initially, no sense of coordination between tracks. Opener ‘Body’ is a sullen, guitar driven track that depicts a break-up and the dissonance that often separates the mind from the physical self in such situations. Chasing this is the juxtaposing ‘Head Alone’, again driven by guitars, but this time in a preppy manner with vigorous crescendos that reinforce the message of needed isolation – “I don’t wanna be touched all the time/I raised my body up to be mine”. The shifts in tempo and attitude appear at first as amateur and ill-fitting, but as the album progresses we begin to see exactly why the intemperate nature is quite the opposite.
Jacklin beautifully crafts each song as an anecdote of utmost honesty, conveying the internal struggles she has faced as well as ones dealt with another person. ‘Don’t Know How to keep Loving You’ bleakly describes the idea of falling in love with someone, ignorant of what lies beneath the surface of magnanimous words and inscrutable promises, only to realise that you have wasted countless of hours of time with someone who isn’t who they said they were. Relationships are explored further on the fired up ‘You were Right’, propelled by brustling guitar and assertive vocals, reflecting the sometimes irrational displeasure that comes from admitting that our staunch arguments were incorrect.
While admirable guitar and drums persist throughout, Jacklin’s voice is what grants each track permission to hold significance. Stellar throughout, it shines on the piano based ‘When the Family Flies In’, carrying a pain of incomprehensible weight. It draws this magnitude of hurt from the events so desolating that they draw families together for fear of this being the last time they see their child, brother, and friend. This track in particular stands out as a display of exemplary songwriting by showing how Jacklin has mastered the art of simplicity and transformed it from it’s juvenile state of barrenness into clever minimalism. To add to this, it’s during this song that we can truly grasp the dual lives of each track, living as both individual anecdotes and an amalgamation of growth ensuing experiences. As Jacklin begins to tire and her wrist begins to ache, she swings into a melancholic ‘Comfort’. Acting as a memoir. A note. A self-fulfilling prophecy of reassurance. It gently reminds us that everything is only ever a matter of time. There is no question on earth that cannot be answered by the irrefutable motions of the hands on a clock.
Crushing is a genuine realisation of hurt, its inevitability, and the growth that is sure to follow. Jacklin embeds each song with minimal instrumentation, focusing instead on the intent of her imbued voice which make the tales of self discovery and loss palpable. It’s a formula that grows in significance over time, and shows that the singer has developed her confidence enough to avoid over compensation and instead trust in her own creative process. Mitchell Goudie