By Leonie O’Sullivan, July 29 2023—
All the way from Australia, Julia Jacklin is making the trip to Calgary Folk Music Festival (CFMF). The singer-songwriter is a raw lyricist with three deeply personal albums, mastering the art of blending indie with folk rock. In 2016, she made her debut with Don’t Let The Kids Win, which encompasses the complexities of growing older and observing the world from a learned perspective. Three years later, she released Crushed, an apt name for a devastating heartbreak album. Another three years passed, and she gave us Pre Pleasure, an album she recorded in Montreal.
Pre Pleasure embraces self-growth and is a more hopeful album than its predecessor, Crushed. The first track, “Lydia Wears A Cross,” paints a picture of her younger, seven-year-old self’s religious confusion at catholic school. She sees all her friends worshipping an almighty lord, but she can’t seem to get on board. In the song’s second half, she demonstrates the Catholic art of asking for forgiveness. Subsequently, the drums pick up as you feel her reclaiming her confidence.
Following her breakup album Crushed, Jacklin does not shy away from the subject of love in Pre Pleasure. My favourite song on this album, “I Was Neon,” is more upbeat, with a powerful electric guitar strumming throughout the track. Jacklin expresses vulnerability as she bravely opens herself up to love again, knowing that if she loses herself, she can find her way back — because she is neon. “Love, Try Not To Let Go” deals with experiencing an all-consuming kind of love. The powerful chorus in this song will take hold of you as you feel the urgency in her voice. “Too In Love To Die” adds to this theme. This track is slower, with piercing vocals that overpower the more subtle instruments on this track. “Be Careful With Yourself” delves into the fear of a Romeo and Juliet ending. She wants to preserve this love by pleading with her partner to quit smoking. She takes this one step further and expresses that she would take up smoking to shorten her life if they couldn’t quit.
“Ignore Tenderness” is a grunge pop track that processes the twisted relationship of shame and intimacy. Chimes sprinkle in magically as she looks back on her past experiences while reassuring her bravery and unlearning what society and religion had taught her about intimacy. This theme is echoed in “Magic,” where she tells herself she won’t be ashamed of intimacy. She reveals her final trick at the end of her song, asking if they could wait until she feels safe again, depicting her healing journey.
The lyrics in ”Less Of A Stranger” hit me hard as she reveals that the stranger is her mother, with whom she yearns for a stronger connection. This theme of a lack of connection is circled back to in “Moviegoer.” This track is more ambiguous than the rest. Jacklin revealed that she wrote this during the pandemic when she was angry about people preaching that creating and consuming art was enough to feel connected to others. She adds that in order to feel truly connected, you must put in the work of building and sustaining relationships.
Jacklin closes the album with “End Of A Friendship.” She processes a night out with a friend in her head. The string ensemble that infiltrates this track adds a romantic sound as she describes a platonic relationship painfully ending, just as a romantic connection would. The more you listen to Pre Pleasure, the more you will fall in love with Jacklin’s genius. The unique sound of her vocals, coupled with her painfully honest lyrics, is a powerful duo. Jacklin does a fantastic job of orchestrating emotions through alternating tempos and pitch and by adding vocal breathiness.
Make sure not to miss Jacklin performing at CFMF this Saturday, July 29. Catch her at the main stage from 6:35 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and earlier in the day jamming with other artists at stage six from 1:55 p.m. to 3:05 p.m.