Julia Jacklin - Crushing - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Julia Jacklin - Crushing

by Mark Moody Rating:10 Release Date:2019-02-22
Julia Jacklin - Crushing
Julia Jacklin - Crushing

You probably don’t come to a music site to read an album review and expect to get a math lesson.  But bear with me a moment if you will.  Fact #1:  Julia Jacklin’s new album, Crushing, has ten songs on it.  In this day and age of digital downloads and custom playlists, you could reorder those ten songs lots of different ways.  Fact #2:  The ten songs on Crushing can be rearranged 3,628,800 ways (mathematically stated that’s 10! for those that care about such things).  Fact #3:  Crushing is 40 minutes long, so it would take you just shy of 300 years* to listen to all those combinations.  But none of those facts are really all that interesting.  After all, they are just facts and facts are usually pretty dull.  However, the final fact about Crushing is actually very interesting and seemingly impossible to fathom at the same time, but because it’s a fact it’s true.  Fact #4:  No matter which of the 3,628,800 combinations you choose to listen to Crushing in, each song is better than the one before it.  Now that’s a pretty fucking cool trick!

It’s not lost on me that the album’s title has many different meanings, but the only one you truly need to think about is one of the more modern definitions.  Jacklin is simply crushing it in the songwriting (and singing) game.  Apparently, no one has been alerting some of these upstart musicians that your sophomore album is supposed to be clunky, awkward, and without a clear sense of purpose.  Last year, Lucy Dacus failed to get the same memo and Crushing is of the same rarified caliber as Dacus’ Historian or Nadia Reid’s Preservation from a few years back.  (Jacklin did in fact put out a fun little record last year operating with her group Phantastic Ferniture, but for all intents and purposes this is her second solo album). 

Given how solid Jacklin’s first album, Don’t Let the Kids Win, was it’s not a surprise that the follow-up would be solid.  Going back and listening to Kids, you forget how much musical punch there is to it.  Crushing, on the other hand, rolls out slowly, especially after the hard left taken just after the more fun than it should be ‘Pressure to Party’.  The album’s forty minutes feel almost double that as Jacklin takes her time and it is a gift to be treasured and turned over in one’s hands.  Jacklin’s lyrics are seemingly simple and straightforward, but they are so sharply remembered and carefully placed as to leave the listener surprised to have been gutted from out of nowhere.  As if someone told you “I just walked my dog” and the sentence somehow became fascinating.  If Jacklin opens a song with the line “I was sitting in my Corolla” you best listen up because she does have something important to say.

The album opens with a brooding drum and bass and a barely heard guitar.  Jacklin’s vocals on ‘Body’ perfectly capture the exhaustion and utter exasperation of the song’s story.  Detailing an aborted flight due to her boyfriend lighting up in the airplane's bathroom, she comes to the realization “I’m not a good woman when you’re around”.  But what hits harder is the following line “that’s when the sound came in” pointing to the liberation the prior line summons up.  The following two songs recall the rockier textures of Kids and the Phantastics, but the rollicking ‘Pressure to Party’ thematically has more in common with Courtney Barnett’s ‘Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party’.  Staying in to avoid returning to the wrong spot makes perfect sense in Jacklin’s reasoning (“I know where you live, I used to live there too”).  The other livelier song on the album, ‘You Were Right’, may be the first song ever about admitting the error of your ways when fessing up to loving a recommended band or restaurant.  It’s a fun mix of admitting you were wrong paired with a classic kiss off.

Just when you think Jacklin may be off to the races with a winning little indie album, she changes course and really doesn’t return.  Torch singer is likely not a label you would expect to associate with her pedigree to this point, but Jacklin pulls out the stops over the six-minute course of ‘Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You’.  The slow burn of the song evolves into a pleading prayer of hope to figure out how to keep things together.  The line “I want your mother to stay friends with mine” is so simple and yet poignant as to physically feel the ache in her voice.  Later on, the mid-tempo ‘Turn Me Down’ has Jacklin cooing through the beginning with a nostalgic tremolo guitar.  But the song morphs into another emotionally full-throated tear jerker as her man tells her of his bright future that she is not a part of.  You can hear each catch, crack, and breath in her voice as if she was singing this in the moment it happened. 

As truly fine as all these songs are there are two others that, put plainly, operate on another level.  ‘When The Family Flies In’ has Jacklin on her cell phone in her Toyota, and from the sound of it, in the rain.  The song recounts a heartbreaking conversation with a troubled friend in intimate detail.  The visceral pain in Jacklin’s goodbye is not only drawn out but speaks to much more than the end of a phone call.  It’s a lump in the throat moment a step beyond the many others here.  At the risk of one too many well-earned superlatives as the Jacklin Kool-Aid warmly courses through, the stutter step tempo of ‘Good Guy’ mixes a Dusty Springfield laconic sensuality with the open humanity of a different “guy” song by a man named Lennon.  Turning the theme of Lennon’s song on its head, Jacklin wishes for the jealous lover that she just doesn’t have.  The song is a beautifully understated and vulnerable track where in spite of being willing to play the fool for her man she still lets him off the hook.  “Breathe in, breathe out, you’re still a good guy” evidences a maturity that few of us inwardly focused humans would be willing to utter.

Repeated plays of Crushing will reward the patient listener as each song reveals its perfection slowly by honestly detailing how people fall short.  Jacklin shows us here that she has the pipes to match the pathos of her most open moments.  With lyrics and vocals so unadorned as to expose the tiny cracks of what makes us all imperfect she also lets us know there is freedom in that admission.  Like a freckled face or a crooked smile, being a smidge off of the definition of classic beauty, not being note perfect all the time, or not always making the right choice is ultimately what instills what we treasure so much.  By frankly showing us her fears and foibles, Jacklin has given us a priceless and selfless work of art that none of us did anything to earn.  That maybe this wasn’t the next step expected from Jacklin or the fact that every song here is better than all the other songs here are their own simple rewards.

*I think I got the math right there, but welcome any mathematician's recalcs.  Something a little north of 276 years assuming 365 day years.  Also, I'm not really a music video person, but the one below is well worth watching.  Just like Jacklin, it's all heart with her siblings and band Body Type on board.  I'm a sucker for a single shot film and this is a good one.  But where did that baby go anyway?

Comments (2)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

This is the best review I've read in a long, long time. Spot on Mark. Easily my record of the year so far.

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Thanks James. It's such a great record. Saw a couple of other 10/10 reviews out there so hopefully it stays on the radar.

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