Taking on misogyny and an ex

Australian singer Julia Jacklin confronts misogyny in her second album, Crushing.
Australian singer Julia Jacklin confronts misogyny in her second album, Crushing.PHOTO: TRANSGRESSIVE

Repossessing one's mind, body and soul is the theme coursing through Julia Jacklin's second album, the gently devastating Crushing, and one that rings true in the wake of the #MeToo movement sweeping across the music scene, felling anyone from R. Kelly to indie rocker Ryan Adams.

Jacklin is among a new cohort of strong Antipodean musicians - from Aussies Courtney Barnett and Jen Cloher to New Zealanders Nadia Reid and Aldous Harding - who are asserting their presence on the world stage.

The album confronts misogyny and isolation being in a boys' club as well as the dissolution of a long-term relationship.

Take the song Head Alone, written on the road "after being in many confined, small spaces with people for about two years", and dealing with the constant showbiz demand to be likeable and accommodating.

"I don't want to be touched all the time/I raised my body to be mine," the Australian singer-songwriter avers, tentative at first, in a jaunty track which sways softly but bites hard.

"I have your back/More than I have mine," she comes to realise, slowly raising her voice, declaring: "I'll say it 'till he understands/You can love somebody without using your hands."

  • Australian singer Julia Jacklin confronts misogyny in her second album, Crushing.

    INDIE POP/ROCK

    CRUSHING

    Julia Jacklin

    Polyvinyl

    4 stars

It's in such calmly delivered declarations which align her best work with the lucid, nocturnal confessionalism of, say, early Sharon Van Etten.

Not surprising then to find out that Jacklin recorded her vocal takes between 1am and 4am in near-pitch darkness except for a lamp in the distant corner.

There is no clever wordplay, only carefully modulated emotions.

In the sombre dirge Body, she is momentarily paralysed by a photo taken by an ex-boyfriend: "Naked on your bed/looking straight at you."

"Would you use it to hurt me?" she wonders, then repeats, as if trying to convince herself: "I guess it's just my life/And it's just my body."

She zeroes in on the purgatorial stasis in Don't Know How To Keep Loving You. Drums drag and shuffle, and the guitar rings like so much loneliness. "I want your mother to stay friends with mine/I want this feeling to pause in time" is the all-too-common sentiment afflicting many ex-couples.

In When The Family Flies In, the dolorous piano shadows her self-reckoning. "There was a silence, weak telephone reception/Doesn't complement a dark state of mind," she sings, each syllable unfurling at its own time.

When she ratchets up the pace, she's letting off steam and taking down her naysayers at the same time.

"Started listening to your favourite band/The night I stopped listening to you," she releases the first of many killer salvos in You Were Right.

The tension hits a peak in Turn Me Down: a couple in a long car ride, facing the inevitable meltdown. She sustains the last fraying vowel in the refrain, "Why won't you turn me down?", as the terrible drums crash.

Then everything is reined in, silence, and she states, nondescript: "Don't look at me/Look at the centre line/Maybe I'll see you in a supermarket sometime."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2019, with the headline 'Taking on misogyny and an ex'. Print Edition | Subscribe