Julia Jacklin takes a grounded approach to conquering shame and personal agency in her captivating third album ‘Pre Pleasure.’
Primarily written and recorded in Montreal, swapping out her usual guitar for a piano, this collection of songs is profoundly introspective, even while Jacklin examines the world around her—both her lived experience and the possibilities of what could be.
At the 2022 ARIA Music Awards, the album earned the Australian singer-songwriter a nomination for Best Solo Artist. It was nominated for Best Independent Release, Best Adult Contemporary Album and Australian Album of the Year at the 2022 J Awards.
The album’s opener and first single “Lydia Wears A Cross” sets the scene of Jacklin’s childhood, growing up admiring the performative aspects of her catholic upbringing more than the shame and confusion it brought her. Through her reflections on religion, explored over an art-pop beat with fuzzy sliding guitar, Jacklin builds the foundation for the rest of the album as she attempts to unlearn her own behaviours and beliefs.
“Ignore Tenderness” is the prime example of her attempts to change her perspectives on intimacy that have been ingrained in her over the years. Over sweeping violins, shimmering cymbals and a jazzy bass-line, Jacklin sings of how society’s views of female sexuality have warped her sense of agency in her own relationships, with poignant lines like, “right when pleasure begins my education creeps in,” and, “such a good student, of all that conflicting advice.”
She explores this theme further through other tracks on the album. She sings lyrics like, “I will feel adored tonight / Ignore intrusive thoughts tonight,” on “Magic” describing the ultimate fantasy where she is able to stick to her own boundaries and remember what she is worth and fight for it. This is sung over soft drumming, chugging acoustic guitar, and a jangling tambourine.
The songs and their instrumentals feel even more lush and healing in a live environment. Jacklin took the stage at The Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto this past September, blowing the crowd away with her silvery, lingering vocals, even though she was just barely recovering from a recent bout of the flu.
“Be Careful With Yourself” proved to be the energy kick-off of the night, the screeching guitar and wit-filled lyrics telling those she loves to prioritize their lives showcasing what Jacklin does best: bringing earnest comfort to her ruminations on the unknowns and inevitabilities of life.
“I Was Neon” produced another cathartic dance party, the entire crowd hopping and chanting along to Jacklin’s paranoid thoughts of, “Am I gonna lose myself again / I quite like the person that I am.”
The emotional center of the album however, has to be a song not performed at the Toronto show. “Less Of A Stranger” works through the painful fact of never being able to know a parent in the way you may want to, its stripped, haunting vocals and acoustic guitar guiding lyrics of never getting to see your parent “in the wild.”
Of the many themes Jacklin explores throughout this album, one thing shines through: her determination to console and reconstruct herself and her relationships. ‘Pre Pleasure’ showcases Jacklin’s elegant control of her craft and emotions, and raises already high expectations for her future emotive and entrancing releases.