Why Julia Jacklin’s PRE-PLEASURE was one of 2022’s best albums

Kat Porritt-Fraser celebrates a cathartic musical highlight from the past year.

Julia Jacklin has the kind of voice that makes you pause what you’re doing to listen in. PRE-PLEASURE has a similar quality as an album – if you resist listening closely, if you’re not ready to open your emotional floodgates, it might pass you by as just any old easy listening/indie/singer-songwriter album. But if you give in, it will leave you floating above your suburb, remembering your childhood, questioning your past, crying happy tears for your future.

PRE-PLEASURE feels like thirty-eight minutes of Jacklin speaking (or singing) gently to herself. It sounds like this too, with an overarching warmth, simplicity and closeness that spreads through the vocals, as well as the rest of the album’s instrumentation: the delicately layered acoustic guitar and piano, the melodic, warping electric guitar and the organically integrated synths. The instrumentation feels as if it moves with Jacklin’s melodies, brought to life by her words, building their emotional world in real time.

I would say it is the minimalism of this album that makes it so emotionally fascinating, but I believe that would be a discredit to the fact it is simply magic, and Jacklin’s lyrics are just beautiful. While her previous album, Crushing, mostly explored familiar emotions of heartbreak and grief, heart-wrenching in its clear-cut honesty and directness, PRE-PLEASURE rarely sees Jacklin try to make sense of her emotions or stream of consciousness. You can feel her urgency about the most abstract of feelings, earnestly pleading with and questioning the listener for answers on everything from unresolvable homesickness (‘Love, Try Not To Let Go’), the distance and difference she feels from her mother (‘Less Of A Stranger’) a damaging religious upbringing (‘Lydia Wears A Cross’), a fear of losing her connection to her sense of self (‘I Was Neon’) and the flurry of contradicting moral messages, emotions and fears about her sexuality pulling her apart (‘Ignore Tenderness’, ‘Magic’). Her more direct songs are factual, demands to the universe (‘Too In Love To Die’) and her loved ones (‘Be Careful With Yourself’).

PRE-PLEASURE is steeped in self-compassion, acceptance of what has been and will be – it never begs for a different past or future, it simply asks for further knowledge of both, a welcome relief from the (rightful) pessimism so many have grown from the last few years. I wonder if the title hints at this too – a self-awareness of the fact that whatever painful, gritty period of growth Julia is in, it is a prerequisite to future joy, a building of loving foundations for life, a decorating of the house with fairy lights before the party begins.

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