Julia Jacklin’s PRE PLEASURE is Music Feeds’ Album of the Week. Imogen Clark reviews.
Julia Jacklin’s music hits close to the nerve. It takes you on an unsettling but intriguing ride that holds a mirror up to you, forcing you to confront some things you might want to avoid. Her lyrics are so personal that a close listen can make you feel almost uncomfortable – as if you’re peeking through a keyhole and witnessing someone else’s private moment.
But despite being deeply intimate, Julia Jacklin’s work is also painted with broad enough brush strokes for it to remain relatable. Jacklin’s third studio album, PRE PLEASURE, speaks of what it is to be human, and it may be her rawest work yet.
PRE PLEASURE (Liberation Records)
Hailing from the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney, Jacklin has mastered the art of the melancholy. In PRE PLEASURE, her writing is dark with an indie rock flair, and it’s easy to see why some have labelled her work alternative country or folk. There are flickers of Emmylou Harris’ mournful vocal tone – particularly in ‘Too In Love To Die’ – and more than a few nods to Joni Mitchell scattered amid the more unusual melodic choices Jacklin makes, conjuring feelings of suspense and sorrow.
From the first lines of opening track ‘Lydia Wears A Cross’, the soundscapes Jacklin creates on this record – alongside co-producer Marcus Paquin (The Weather Station, The National) – are ethereal and the melodies haunting. Her fragile vocal tone is up front in the mix, where it belongs and can’t be ignored.
In the devastating ‘Less Of A Stranger’, Jacklin whispers, “I just wish my own mother was less of a stranger”, and her breathy vocal portrays an almost unbearable vulnerability. The dry vocal production matches the stark reality of these stories and personal realisations. Similarly, the sparse and eerily quiet production throughout the record means that each consonant, instrumental part and chord change is given the spotlight.
There is no unnecessary fat here, giving the album has classic sound. Songs like ‘Moviegoer’ and ‘Love, Try Not To Let Go’ could’ve been at home in the discographies of the Eagles or Fleetwood Mac. The implication is that if a part exists on this record, there is a considered reason for its existence.
Julia Jacklin – ‘Less Of A Stranger’
It’s easy to point to Jacklin’s melody-writing as her specialty. However, it’s the lyrical prowess and evocative storytelling that impress the most on PRE PLEASURE. This is never more obvious than in the confronting lyrics of ‘Ignore Tenderness’, an examination of the challenges of sexual vulnerability for young women objectified by a misogynistic, often violent pornography culture.
Jacklin sings, “Beneath the sheets you’re just a cave / A plastic bucket, or a grave / Who said you’re not what you get? / You are what you gave away.”
Julia Jacklin’s PRE PLEASURE sounds sad, but there’s something hopeful in its self-awareness. Part of Jacklin’s songwriting process is to “force [herself] to put words to those feelings,” and this tack forces attentive listeners to view themselves under the same emotional microscope. It’s this encouragement to confront our deepest, most uncomfortable feelings that makes PRE PLEASURE a record we need, even if we’re fearful to admit it.