With no ifs and buts, Julia Jacklin has become one of the most captivating songwriters of the new indie/alternative scene over the years thanks to her authentic lyrical flair and on-brand playful artistic nature. She carved out an awe-inspiring reputation with her courageous way of storytelling, baring everything one could struggle to put into words in such intimate and relatable manner.
Her lyrical patterns follow a route we seldom see among her peers and her extensive sound can range from hushed melodies to stadium-style rock compositions. And with this kind of recognition, at the peak of her game, Jacklin yet again presents a new collection of songs that feels like a warm hug from a friend telling you it will be okay.
Themes of religion, sex, fear, loss and love are particularly tackled on Pre Pleasure. On her previous record, Jacklin found the stability she longed for in her life in a newfound relationship with herself after a catastrophic period of uncertainties and upheavals. And on Pre Pleasure, she seeks to set a balance between thinking about life and actually living—hence the record serves more of a textbook of life lessons in the process of being understood.
On the opener, “Lydia Wears A Cross,” Jacklin recalls the simpler times as an unquestioning teenager in a Catholic school and reflects upon the influence her faith had on certain aspects of her life. She confesses the conflicted feelings she has regarding religion as she sings “I’d be a believer if it was all just song and dance / I’d be a believer if I thought we had a chance,” but she also acknowledges that this struggle is more than just an underage experience and adds “Vivian’s holding on / But singing every single word wrong.” The track perfectly sets the tone for an album of inconvenient truths and self-realizations.
The gratifying garage rock tendencies of “Love, Try Not To Let Go” make a noticable shift on the otherwise gloomy and measured soundscape since the track slowly builds up to a thundering guitar-driven climax just to drop right back down, something Jacklin is notorious for. Here, the singer deals with hopeless romanticism and expresses her desire to both receive and provide love: “Love, love is all that I want now / Can I give my love to evеryone somehow?”
Yes, Jacklin’s familiar guitar sounds let keys take centre stage in her music pretty frequently. But the real star of the show is, without a doubt, saxophone lend “Ignore Tenderness,” which pairs sprinkling of blissful strings and vocal harmonies with some of the most compelling and deeply vulnerable lyrics on the record. She describes what she was taught when she was young and questions widely and harmfully adopted expectations around sexuality. It is a perfect example of the solidarity Jacklin has with her listeners, handling a topic that could feel very much private to her in a sincere tone.
Free-flowing continuity of the tracklist takes a sharper turn as we move on to a frenetic pop sound with the crunchy guitars and danceable groove of the album’s centre-piece “I Was Neon.” But as opposed to the bright instrumentation, Jacklin finds herself in fear of losing the things that make her ‘her,’ while simultaneously attempting to maintain and rediscover herself.
The same tender feeling is also present in almost hymnal “Too In Love To Die” but with a dreamlike and mellow melody while a resonating church organ incorporates her gentle, reserved vocal delivery. “I’m too in love to die / If this plane were to go down / Surely the love I feel for him would soften the ground,” she cites the sense of safety and invincibility that comes along with love as also a cure for all the chaos she endures in life.
While the gentle acoustic vibe of “Less Of A Stranger” carries on the smooth sound, the songwriting is quite the opposite as Jacklin makes her intent clear with the opening verse: “Never gonna know you the way that I want to / Never gonna see you in the wild.” Perhaps the most heartbreaking moment on the album, the song deals with the complexities of a mother-daughter relationship and how the person closest to you can remain unknowable. It is simultaneously a song of growth and diminution, a balance that Jacklin masterfully strikes with her pen.
Cinematic closer “End Of A Friendship” makes a touching finale to an already moving album. As the whirling strings add an extra layer of hopeful grandiosity, Jacklin details the final conversation she had with a former friend whom she has peacefully parted her ways with: “She listed the things about me she didn’t like / I sat there in silence, accepted our fate / We always found it hard to relate.” This build-up leads to a full orchestral distorted guitar solo and an all-encompassing line: “All my love is spinning ’round the room / If only it would land on something soon.” In the end, she is once again all by herself with no one to give her love to.
Pre Pleasure is a delight to listen to. It is Julia Jacklin at her best: raw yet intricate and wholeheartedly personal. She proposes a lot of questions but she is also okay with not finding the answers. She is shattered but she is also willing explore new terrains in her life. She shares all the details and emotional weight required to find peace and comfort—or pleasure in this case. It is a triumph in storytelling, and I cannot wait to see what she has in store next.