Recommended Tracks: “I Was Neon”, “Too In Love To Die”, “End Of A Friendship”
Artists You May Like: Maggie Rogers, Lucy Dacus, Angel Olsen
Julia Jacklin has released her third album, PRE PLEASURE, and it is a master class in confessional songwriting. The Australian singer-songwriter wrote the album after touring her 2019 sophomore album, Crushing. Though she wrote her first two albums with a guitar; this time around, craving a change, she wrote with a keyboard. Jacklin recorded the album in Montreal with Marcus Paquin, who has produced and engineered countless indie-rock albums, including The Suburbs by Arcade Fire and Trouble Will Find Me by The National.
This album will break your heart and put it back together, just before breaking it once more. It is incredibly personal (yet relatable), and Julia explores the complexities of growing up: love, loss, self-preservation, and vulnerability. During “Love, Try Not To Let Go,” she admits, “Love is all that I want now,” and she asks for “time to figure some things out.” One of the most impactful tracks on the album is “Too In Love To Die,” a song about a love strong enough to soften even the deepest blow. The singer-songwriter opens the track with the thought, “I’m too in love to die / If this plane were to go down / Surely the love I feel for him / Would soften the ground.” She adds, “God couldn’t take me now / Surely the love I feel for him / Would save my life somehow.” The penultimate track, “Be Careful With Yourself,” reads like a love letter, opening with Julia’s plea, “Please, stop smoking, want your life to last a long time / If you don’t stop smoking, I’ll have to start to shorten mine.” Julia is an exemplary lyricist, and often opts for simple instrumentals to showcase her talent. Any additions, like the acoustic guitar fading in during “Too In Love To Die,” or the sharp introduction to “Be Careful With Yourself,” are obviously intentional and quite effective. “End Of A Friendship” is the heart-wrenching finale to an already moving album. There are countless songs about the end of romantic relationships, but the end of a friendship can be just as painful. She recounts the final conversation she had with a former friend, recalling, “She listed the things about me she didn’t like / I sat there in silence, accepted our fate / We always found it hard to relate.” Throughout the album, Julia expresses just how much love she has to give, and by “End Of A Friendship,” she seems to be overwhelmed by this love, with no one to give it to. She closes with the notion, “All my love is spinning ’round the room / If only it would land on something soon.”
The artist also explores the idea of escapism as self-preservation. Throughout “Moviegoer,” she describes the experiences of a moviegoer and a movie director, singing, “Moviegoer’s twenty dollars down…Movie director is going down too / Twenty million dollars, still nobody understands you.” Towards the end of the song, she admits, “If you can say it to a stranger, you can call your sister later.” In a world where it is common to find comfort in fiction, where “the grass is greener,” it is necessary to honestly connect with your friends and family, to allow yourself to be flawed, to be vulnerable. And, Julia proposes, it’s not as difficult as it may seem. On “Magic,” she wants to forget about the shame she has suffered, the lessons she has learned, and the times she has been hurt. It seems she would rather put on a performance than allow herself to be vulnerable, but it is because she wants to let go of the past and “turn over a new page.” Ultimately, this song is about her desire to feel safe; she realizes that it can’t be forced. It ends with Julia revealing her “final trick”: she sings, “I’ll ask if we could wait / Until I feel safe again.”
Julia grew up Catholic, and she reflects upon the influence her faith (or lack thereof) had on certain aspects of her life, including her sexuality. “Lydia Wears A Cross” introduces this theme; questioning her faith, she confesses, “I’d be a believer / If it was all just song and dance / I’d be a believer / If I thought we had a chance.” She delves deeper during “Ignore Tenderness,” which pairs dreamy instrumentals with some of the most honest and raw lyrics on the album. She describes what she was taught when she was young – “Ignore the tenderness you crave / Be naughty, but don’t misbehave / Who said that you’re not what you get, you are what you gave away?” Ultimately, Julia has grown up and has put in the work to heal, and she doesn’t want to regress; during the edgy, Lucy Dacus-esque “I Was Neon,” she asks, “Am I going to lose myself again?” She adds, “I quite like the person that I am.”
Rather than wrapping PRE PLEASURE up with a neat bow, the singer-songwriter leaves it unwrapped. She does not try to answer the complex questions that she proposes throughout the album – it would be impossible to do so, and immature to try. Instead, she seeks comfort in the chaos. She has said:
“A lot of the time I feel like I need to do all the work before I can enjoy my life. Whether that’s work on songs or sex, friendships, or my relationship with my family – I think if I work on them long and hard enough, eventually I’ll get to sit around and really enjoy them. But that’s not how anything works, is it. It’s all an ongoing process.”