Updated: Sep 1
The 31-year-old Australian's third album is a beautifully contemplative listen from an authentic and big-hearted songwriter.
Julia Jacklin can’t have fun until she’s put in the hard graft. “A lot of the time I feel like I need to do all the work before I can enjoy my life,” reveals the Australian singer introducing her new album PRE PLEASURE, “whether that’s work on songs or sex, friendships, or my relationship with my family…eventually I’ll get to sit around and really enjoy them. But that’s not how anything works, is it?”
This refreshing honesty extends into the music of the 31-year-old artist’s third album, the above words setting the perfect context to her anxious mindset. It’s not just an act either. As a result, the new collection of songs feature direct, poignant and reflective storytelling. The ten tunes feel understated, yet present a lingering thoughtfulness from an authentic artist at the peak of their game. Most importantly from a listening point of view, they never outstay their welcome.
“I’d be a believer / If it was all just song and dance” admits Jackin on piano-led curtain raiser ‘lydia wears a cross’, before cynically adding “I’d be a believer / If I thought we had a chance”. The opening track, and first preview single, take her back to a simpler time as an unquestioning child in a Catholic school. Though she reflects with understanding on her youthful dedication (“Lydia wears a cross / Says she’s never gonna take it off / We sit back to back / Listening to Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack”), she confesses to conflicted feelings in her later life around her faith. Two-thirds in, a combination of a wailing guitar, bass and drums has the song excellently burst into life to brighten a melancholic childhood tale - it’s a perfect beginning to set the album’s tone.
Recorded in Montreal with co-producer Marcus Paquin (The Weather Station, The National), PRE PLEASURE marks a new sonic chapter in Julia Jacklin’s career. She wrote the majority of the album on a Roland keyboard with inbuilt band tracks. And the change-up definitely compliments the record’s deeply personal and reflective character.
Despite the altered sound focus, the album’s best track and centre-piece, ‘I was neon’, possesses a grittier guitar-heavy sound. It has Jacklin worrying about losing her identity with time and desperately attempting to maintain herself. As the song meets its demise, the “Am I gonna lose myself again?” refrain reveals an over agonising for the future. That the lyric is repeated nine times helps us feel a sudden, understanding empathy towards her anxiety.
Jacklin also tackles the issue of true love, contrasting the equal emotions of joy and panic that romanticism can bring. The hymnal ‘too in love to die’ puts Jacklin’s voice front and centre, a perfect feeling of invincibility caused by the impact of romance (“if this plane were to go down / surely the love I feel for him / would soften the ground”). Meanwhile, on the looser garage rock of ‘be careful with yourself’ she creates a list of distressed demands for her lover to look after themselves. From car accidents to suicide, she’s petrified of their thriving relationship coming to a swift end – the care is cute, if a little too considered.
“Love, love is all that I want now / Can I give my love to evеryone somehow?” the Melbroune-via- Blue Mountains singer declares with hopeless romanticism on the upbeat ‘Love, Try Not To Let Go’. It’s another piano-led track with gaping vulnerability, slowly building to a beautiful guitar-driven climax. Jacklin confesses to the track being the first time she’s played piano on a record and there’s no question that the risk certainly pays off.
“All of my love is spinning round the room / if only it would land on something soon” reflects the ever hopeful Jacklin on album closer ‘End Of A Friendship’ as she looks back on the conclusion of a plutonic relationship with acceptance. The strings from Owen Pallett (Arcade Fire) add an extra layer of hopeful grandiosity and ensure a memorable – and hopeful - album climax upon its nearing completion.
“I care so much about the people around me,” reveals Jacklin in an album press release, “so much it makes me want to sleep forever, it feels so overwhelming”. This care and vulnerability pour out through the ten tracks on PRE PLEASURE - this is a really gorgeous collection of songs that are deeply personal and crafted so eloquently. It’s a beautifully contemplative listen from an authentic and big-hearted songwriter.