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Review: Julia Jacklin "Pre Pleasure"

Updated: May 12



 

Julia Jacklin has recently garnered many new fans, myself included, after opening for Mitski in late March. The Australian artist has released three albums since 2016, the latest being Pre Pleasure in 2022. After enjoying her opening set at the Mitski concert, I felt compelled to look more into the artist’s folksy sound.


Jacklin’s debut album, Don’t Let the Kids Win, is a captivating introduction to the artist's music. This album made me understand why Jacklin’s music has been celebrated for its alternative country sound. Unfamiliar with the genre, I gave the album a listen and immediately caught that twangy sound that reminded me of cowboy blues. The album gained her instant fame in Australia, prompting her to tour in her home country as well as in the United States and the United Kingdom. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive in large publications, including The New York Times and Vogue. Rolling Stone Australia described her music as “simple and unadorned.”


Some of my favorite songs come from the artist’s 2019 album Crushing. "Pressure to Party" is a beautifully constructed break-up song. The song starts with an upbeat tune and the line “Pressure to party, gonna stay in,” which is part of a repeating phrase throughout the song. The breakup she's depicting seems to be non-amicable, leaving the singer struggling to move on. This is most obvious in the first verse in the lines “Pressure to feel fine after the fact/ Out on the dance floor with my body back/ Meeting a stranger, touching his face/ I don't want anyone to ever take your place,” There is an expectation for the singer to get back into dating, but she isn’t ready and resorts to isolating herself. “Pressure to Party” has proven to be a relatable (or at least a very catchy) song to 36 million listeners on Spotify.


 



 

Conversely, “Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You” is a slower track about falling out of love with a partner. The artist maintains her catchy style in this song, with the chorus being the lines “Don't know how to keep loving you/ Now that I know you so well”. While these two lines are repeated for most of the song, in Jacklin’s voice, the lyrics never go overdone.

Her newest album, Pre Pleasure, is a coming-of-age-themed album comprised of ten tracks. While Crushing remains my favorite album of hers, Pre Pleasure is a close second. The songs on this album cover the relatable experiences of growing up, and make for a nostalgic listen.


“Less Of a Stranger” details the realization that our parents are Individuals with their own stories, highlighting the feeling of wanting to know more about them. “Lydia Wears A Cross” explores questioning one's religion.


One of my personal favorites on the album, “Ignore Tenderness,” describes the complications of understanding sexuality. The track starts with a hesitant and timid beat which turns celebratory. However, the lyrics tell a different story. Similar to the music, the lyrics lead with confusion: “I’ve been trying to be turned on by you/ Be turned on by myself, or anything else”. The first verse continues this hesitant tone and divulges the remaining uncertainty with sexuality that the singer still carries as an adult. This lingering apprehension shows how misinformation, especially in someone's formative years, can continue to hurt them. This is largely evident in the lyrics that proceed throughout the track: “Go put ice in your mouth/ Let them slap you about/ Go on, choke yourself out”


As the tone of the song changes to a more celebratory sound in the chorus, the lyrics start to contradict that more joyful tone. “You are brave/ Beneath the sheets, you’re just a cave/ A plastic bucket, or a gravе”. These lyrics, and the resigned voice that sings them, paired with the upbeat music beautifully contrast one another. The song makes a point about expectations and pressure put on women to perform sexuality in a way that caters to others at the cost of their comfort and safety. This is further demonstrated in the proceeding line, “Who said, ‘you’re not what you get/ You are what you gavе away’?” The second verse articulates that discomfort in lyrics, “I’ve been thinking back to when things went off track/ You know that’s not what I wanted, is that why I feel haunted?” and the song ends with an acceptance of these feelings as how things are meant to be. “Ignore the tenderness you crave/ Be naughty but don’t misbehave”.


 


 

I am truly grateful to have been introduced to this artist and the alternative country genre as a whole. Jacklin’s music is touching and empathetic, and I can’t wait to see what the up-and-coming artist has in store for fans old and new.


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