Album review: Julia Jacklin

Julia Jacklin - Crushing (Transgressive)

LOOKS CAN be deceiving. Or can they? The cover of Jacklin's second solo album finds her surrounded by bric-a-brac, almost drowning in it, but with an ecstatic expression on her face.

However, the music within suggests the cover indicates the artist is happiest in a private world, shut away from too much overwhelming reality, and Crushing is one of the saddest albums this reviewer has heard in a long time.

Key track, 'Head Alone', is an indie-rock anthem par excellence, its refrain, "I don’t want to be touched all the time/I raised my body up to be mine”, sounds like a call to arms in an era of female empowerment and the drive for bodily autonomy, but the song was inspired by Jacklin's desire to, as she admits herself, be alone and "enforce boundaries".

The melancholy, indie meets blue-eyed soul, of 'Don't Know How To Keep Loving You' is a heart-breaking tale of a relationship in free fall, its decline shredding self-confidence: "What if cleaned-up, what if I worked on my skin?" Jacklin asks in a bid to save things, later admitting: "Enter the darkness, or is it the light?...who will I be, now you are no longer next to me".

Jacklin is a superb vocalist, up there with Cat Power at her best. There is a pain, an honesty, a purity, a true sense of the blues, in her voice. Fine examples are 'Good Guy' ("Tell me I'm the love of your life, even if you don't mean it" ) or the uncertain declarations of "I'll be OK" on the bleakly beautiful 'Comfort'. In both cases her intonation is perfectly judged to the deeply sad situations depicted.

Some hope comes in the two songs closest in sound and energy to her band project, Phantastic Ferniture - 'You Were Right' and 'Pressure To Party', the latter declaring: "I've locked myself in my room, but I'll open up the door and try to love again soo."

Albums this raw and honest do not come along very often, but there is depth and quality in both the vocals and the music. An uneasy but rewarding album for both Jacklin and audiences.

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