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Julia Jacklin’s ‘Pre Pleasure’ sinks teeth into mystique of sentiment, spirituality

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SEPTEMBER 02, 2022

Grade: 4.0/5.0

On her latest album Pre Pleasure, Julia Jacklin pores over seemingly scattered past personal threads while tumbling through an impassioned kaleidoscope of present devotion and yearning. On the incongruously titled track “Ignore Tenderness,” the Australian singer-songwriter asks, “Who said, ‘you’re not what you get/ You are what you gavе away’?” It’s a verse emblematic of a broader central contradiction that Jacklin finds herself traversing over the course of 10 songs. One isn’t only the history one inherits. Yet it is the history one inherits that appears as a labyrinth of learned instincts and concessions — a labyrinth that is interwoven, interminably, with the human desire to be wanted by another. 

Indeed, on Pre Pleasure, the renegotiation of the strands of one’s essence — a key element of a listener’s understanding of Jacklin’s present lyrical confessions — is far from arbitrary. The record’s opening song, “Lydia Wears a Cross,” imprints into the imagination an insular scene of a youth born in the church. It’s an image littered with references to the “Jesus Christ Superstar” soundtrack and prayers for Princess Diana, of a child’s curated joy in customs and community in the face of an ever obscure divinity. “Confused by the rest, could he hear me?” Jacklin wonders of God.

It is this questioning, rooted in a longing to be seen, that trails Jacklin on the standout song “Ignore Tenderness,” which sees an adolescent adopt a carnal approach to assuage this anxiety. But this response is not altogether gratifying for them. Instead, it’s party to the perpetuation of a cycle of guilt the individual has already internally ingrained — a response that is similarly shaped by a sweeping societal scrutiny of women and their relationship with their bodies.

The sinuous specificity sculpted in these early two tracks epitomize Jacklin’s greatest strengths as a lyricist. Her next track, “I Was Neon,” however, does not. The pulsing, metallic, pop-influenced production is matched by a fidgety restlessness, but the unwitting fear expressed here is one coded in hazy lyrics that speak in generalities. The following “Too in Love To Die” is another song set in the present, but it fashions a far more moving mosaic of memory entrenched in the momentous. Its sanguine verses on interpersonal devotion, interlaced with a weighty, church-influenced production, crystallize into a serene elegy. “I’m too in love to die/ God couldn’t take me now,” Jacklin croons, transforming one’s open-hearted recognition of another into a celestial act.

On “Less of a Stranger,” Jacklin returns to a site that cultivates a denial of the self: childhood. She cuts into the fragile chasm between a daughter and her mother, singing “Sometimes I wonder, do I intimidate her?/ Do my questions and my pain/ Take like skin to a razor?” Her visceral, acute lyrics are soothed by an acoustic, austere musical composition. Notably, in an interview with NME Australia, Jacklin declined to discuss this particular tune, despite its repertoire of lush, vulnerable lyricism. This deliberate choice of silence further contextualizes the reckoning on this track as perhaps the most penetrating and intimate account of Jacklin’s on the album.

History continually reveals itself as a specter of loneliness on Pre Pleasure. Despite the heights of affection reached on “Too in Love to Die,” this reality of being alone does not change by the record’s final track, plainly titled “End of a Friendship.” “All my love is spinning round the room/ If only it would land on something soon,” Jacklin sings, expressing her wistfulness over an emphatic, emotive string arrangement. 

But Jacklin’s love has landed on something. If it hasn’t lingered in a physical sense, sifting through the dysfunction of friendships, family and romance, it has through the memorialization of these relations through her art. The record concludes with a couplet: “But all my words are caught up in a cloud/ You know someday you’ll have to say them out loud.” She finally has. And maybe that’s enough.

Contact Hafsah Abbasi at [email protected].
LAST UPDATED

SEPTEMBER 02, 2022


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