Last summer, Julia Jacklin followed up her strong and promising 2016 debut, Don’t Let The Kids Win, with something decidedly different: A chill, laidback indie rock trio album with some buddies under the name Phantastic Ferniture. The album was unfairly overlooked by most folks, but had a shaggy, loose vibe that, when paired with Jacklin’s songwriting wit and floating voice, made it impossible to ignore once you heard it.
Jacklin’s solo again with Crushing, her sophomore LP as a solo act, and neither of her previous albums could have prepared anyone for this: Crushing is an organs-on-the-table dissection of a breakup, absolutely harrowing and wrenching in its lyrical specificity and its openness. Crushing’s 10 songs examine the tumultuous waves present in each breakup. Separating in a relationship is not linear; it comes in wave after crushing wave. The anger gives way to sadness gives way to regret gives way to trying to forget them gives way to grim acceptance. Jacklin captures it all in Crushing.
Crushing opens with “Body,” a song recounting an apparently real fight with her boyfriend over him getting kicked off a flight for smoking in the bathroom, culminating in her wondering if he’ll use the nude photos he took of her to hurt her in the future. “I’m gonna leave you / I’m not a good woman when you’re around” Jacklin sings solemnly over the trace drumbeat and a strummed guitar, capturing so much with so little, the hallmark of Jacklin’s songwriting.
The album rolls like the cover of Unknown Pleasures through the feelings post-breakup, often accompanied by instrumentation that matches the ups and downs. “When the Family Flies In,” which ends with a pained ponderance over the music video she sent her ex the last time they talked, is all piano, and dulcet tones, while “Pressure to Party,” a song about wanting to force yourself out into society after the breakup, but taking the time before trying to love again soon, is upbeat, shredding and shouty. Crushing, as much as it is a breakup album, is also a showcase for how varied Jacklin’s songwriting has become in the last three years; she can do loosely tied indie rock and piano ballads and acoustic campfire songs and gruff tell offs effortlessly in a row here.
Crushing’s arc is one of reclamation; through these songs, Jacklin is able to regain some control over her body, how she wants to be loved, and her own headspace. The album closes with a personal affirmation and a confirmation that she’s ready to let go. “I’ll be OK / I’ll be alright / I’ll get well soon / sleep through the night / don’t know how you’re doing, but that’s what I get / I can’t be the one to hold you, when I was the one who left,” she sings quietly over a Chemtrail guitar line. Crushing might be the story of Jacklin’s personal breakup, but it’s also her most universal record; it’s a salve for when you’re in the pit of a breakup and eventually you’ll get a hold of yourself, try the restaurant your ex always wanted to go to, say “fuck them,” and move on.
You can stream Crushing over at NPR. It’s out on Friday.
Photo above by Nick Mckk.