Julia Jacklin doesn’t ease her listeners into the emotional turbulence of her songwriting. Instead, she jolts them out of their seats with startling opening lines. “It might make for good TV/ the grieving process for all to see/ but I don’t want my father’s ashes/ scattered over strangers’ couches,” Jacklin sings on the beginning of “Eastwick,” a single released in 2017. Although the song was released two years prior to her latest album, Crushing, its opening lines evoke the album’s ability to reveal personal experiences of loss and longing through vivid and vulnerable songs.
Jacklin grew up outside of Sydney, Australia, and first captured the attention of audiences worldwide with her 2016 debut album Don’t Let the Kids Win. Since then, the singer/songwriter/guitarist has formed the Sydney indie rock band Phantastic Ferniture, and in February, released her second solo album, Crushing. Jacklin is currently on tour supporting Crushing, and last night visited Minneapolis to perform a sold-out show at 7th Street Entry with Black Belt Eagle Scout.
“Body” is the first track on Crushing, and Jacklin chose the song to open her set. She started the song by strumming a minor chord on her guitar, which her band quietly lingered on until Jacklin’s voice landed on top of the instrumentation. Like “Body,” many of the songs on Crushing feature restrained arrangements that let Jacklin’s lyrics rise to the top of the mix. Jacklin was joined onstage by a bassist, guitarist, and drummer, who crafted their melodies and rhythms around the singer’s dynamic voice.
“Body” introduces the story of a breakup — a breakup that is dissected, prodded, and cataloged throughout the album’s songs. The body is a motif that Jacklin references often throughout Crushing; the word appears in nearly half of the album’s songs. “I guess it’s just my life/ and it’s just my body,” she sings on “Body,” thinking about the consequences of an ex sharing a nude photo of her. Jacklin sings about the pressure to have her “body back” on the dance floor after becoming newly single in “Pressure to Party,” and asserts that “you can love somebody without using your hands” on “Head Alone.”
Just as often as Crushing references a corporeal state, it conjures a feeling of being stuck between multiple places by mentioning various modes of transportation. Jacklin stands on a tarmac in Sydney after her partner is kicked off a domestic flight in “Body.” Later on the album, she sits in her Toyota Corolla while her family members board airplanes to help her say goodbye to a severed relationship. Jacklin wrote the songs on Crushing after touring for her first album, and the songs’ descriptions of constant shuffle are reminiscent of the upheaval and unsettlement of living on the road for months at a time.
In addition to playing songs off of Crushing like “Good Guy” and “You Were Right,” Jacklin also brought a few tracks from Don’t Let the Kids Win, including the title track, which she performed with just her voice and Fender Telecaster. I heard sniffles behind me and saw a few audience members wiping their eyes during the song, an ode to aging and cherishing family relationships.
Jacklin gave a nod to Minnesota by wearing a t-shirt from Uff-Da Records, the St. Cloud record store. “Someone gave me this shirt a few years ago and now I wear it all the time,” Jacklin told the crowd, although she acknowledged that she has never visited the store.
Throughout her performance, the audience listened intently to the band’s quiet and dynamic arrangements. Jacklin’s voice rang out softly on the intro to “Eastwick,” barely louder than the lid of a beer can cracking open. Aside from her lyrics, Jacklin’s voice is perhaps the singer’s most identifying and enrapturing characteristic. Her voice can sweep gracefully over melodic leaps, rise to a cry, and land a phrase gently with warm vibrato.
While Crushing can be read as the devastating aftermath left by heartbreak, it is also a story about autonomy — rediscovering your body and space within the world. As much as the album’s songs detail loss or pain, they also speak to Jacklin’s authorship over her own story. She reassures herself in the album’s closing track, “Comfort,” which she performed solo as an encore. In the song, she speaks to an ex, while also addressing herself, “You’ll be okay / You’ll be alright.”
Black Belt Eagle Scout opened the evening with songs from their debut album Mother of My Children, as well as the new singles “Loss & Relax” and “Half Colored Hair.” Black Belt Eagle Scout is the project of multi-instrumentalist Katherine Paul, who grew up north of Seattle in the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and self-describes as a “Swinomish/Iñupiaq queer feminist.”
“We are guests here on this land,” Paul said before the band’s set, reminding the audience of Minnesota’s indigenous history.
Colleen Cowie runs the blog Pass The Mic.
Black Belt Eagle Scout