Julia Jacklin’s second album, “Crushing,” is hypnotic and honest in its candid lyrics about self-discovery after heartbreak. The Australian singer-songwriter bares her nonlinear, turbulent moments of a breakup intimately, detailing her journey to take back agency of her body.
Jacklin begins the album with “Body,” recounting the story of getting kicked off a domestic flight because her significant other was smoking on the plane. “Body” sets up the brutally candid album, detailing the moments she knew it was over. On the track, the artist sings, “Watch me turn my own head/ Heading to the city to get my body back.” But while Jacklin wonders whether a nude photograph taken years ago could be used against her, she finds liberation, singing, “I guess it’s just my life/And it’s just my body.” The open and honest stories Jacklin owns through her lyrics allow for an intimate connection between listener and artist.
Jacklin continues to investigate the motif of her body in “Head Alone,” an upbeat guitar melody that features empowering lyrics about taking autonomy of her space. “I don’t want to be touched all the time/I raised my body up to be mine,” Jacklin sings. Her voice gains momentum as she chants, “So I’ll say it ‘til he understands/You can love somebody without using your hands.” Jacklin’s songs are not a huge production, but her compelling lyrics and dreamy voice are enough to create the right atmosphere for the album.
Third on the album comes “Pressure to Party,” a fast-moving and powerful song in which Jacklin explores coping with her heartbreak in public. Not wanting to be isolated, yet needing time to reorient, she sings, “I know I’ve locked myself in my room/But I’ll open up the door and try to love again soon.” The self-awareness that Jacklin displays in recognizing her need for time while remaining open to future love is admirable and mature. The energy of the song evokes the overthinking that takes place at a party, in a moment when the music is loud and you’re surrounded by bodies on all sides.
It’s clear the waves of heartbreak are sweeping: Just when the wave recedes, it comes back to swallow you underneath the current. “Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You” is carried by Jacklin’s haunting and melancholy voice. Jacklin seeks to hold on to the past as she sings, “I wanna feel it all every time that we kiss/I want your mother to stay friends with mine.” But she then diverges into doubtful longing, desperately looking for a way to salvage love: “What if I cleaned up?/What if I worked on my skin?/I could scrub until I am red, hot, weak and thin/Too tired to run away.” The crooning of her voice is distressing, the last call of a fading relationship you know you have to let go of, but somehow long to save.
“Convention” details the dysfunctional nature of Jacklin’s crumbling relationship: “We’ll have to pay to keep the lights on/And that bill will arrive just when all our savings have gone.” An acoustic guitar accompanies Jacklin’s assured voice as she assesses the relationship level-headedly, realizing it no longer fits. “Call me a ride, I can’t walk home/ Can’t stand the pain from these shoes I’ve now outgrown,” she sings coolly.
Jacklin croons softly in “Good Guy”: “Tell me I’m the love of your life/just for a night/ even if you don’t feel it.” The lyrics embody a longing for temporary solace, making the song an honest take on loneliness after a breakup. Jacklin confronts every emotion that comes along with ending a relationship: the longing to recover lost love and the craving to sink into the sadness. But she finds her own forward momentum in her body.
The second-to-last song of the album, “Turn Me Down,” is mellow and melancholy, building slowly in a climb to catharsis. Jacklin sings of her significant other’s mistrust as they drive along a highway. “Pulled off the highway/He took my hand, said I see a bright future/I’m just not sure that you’re in it,” Jacklin sings, and then the song falls completely silent two minutes in. Suddenly, the only sound is Jacklin’s voice, quietly chanting, “So please just turn me down,” over and over, growing in volume and in strength.
Jacklin’s chilling tone sounds afraid at first but finds comfort in itself, becoming a roar of exhilarating freedom. “Maybe I’ll see you in a supermarket sometime,” she sings.
In “Comfort,” Jacklin’s soothing voice sings as a refrain, “You’ll be okay, you’ll be alright.” The minimalism and quietude of the song allows Jacklin’s breathing to take up space, offering intimacy. “Comfort” is the conclusion of the ups and downs that accompanied moving on; the song finds Jacklin peacefully sure of her resolution. “You can’t be the one to hold him when you were the one/who left,” Jacklin sings throughout the song, at first sad and then accepting.
“Crushing” is both the fleeting excitement of love and the visceral break that assumes moving on. It’s music you’ll cry to and feel re-energized by. It’s the moment you’re mindlessly dancing and then realize you want nothing more than to be alone. It’s the feeling of knowing you’re not right for someone and yet not quite ready to leave because, to quote Jacklin, “I was so happy all those years with you.” It’s the realization that your best memories can’t be recreated, and how, as Jacklin puts it, “When I can’t even promise/I’d do things differently next time.” It’s the moment you know your body is ready to move on, but your heart can’t cease relenting and reminiscing. It’s gut-wrenching and full of self-doubt, but Jacklin illustrates how the return to your body will prevail.