It would be easy to say that Pre Pleasure, Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin’s triumphant third album, is the singer looking ahead, thinking of her future: being maternal in a sense. In the closing track of the album, “Too in Love to Die,” Jacklin anxiously sings of the ways that she wants herself and her loved ones to better themselves so they don’t die because she can’t bear the thought of losing them.
“I need to stay near you, right by your side, surely it’s love like this that keeps us alive,” Jacklin sings in her ultimate bummer of a beautiful love song.
However, this is also an album that’s deeply rooted in the past. Jacklin is known for her confessional music, and Pre Pleasure, which is out today, is no exception. In fact, the album is arguably Jacklin’s most confessional, which is quite a feat for someone who has become known for the open book lyricism found in her previous two albums.
Pre Pleasure’s first single “Lydia Wears A Cross” takes the whole confessional part of Jacklin’s music quite literally. The reflective song focuses in on Jacklin’s experience being brought up in Christian schools, and the concept of being pushed into Christianity, or taken more loosely, any religion, as a child but never really believing in it.
The song revolves around Jacklin at a young age performing in “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and loving the theatrics and music of it, but maybe not caring as much about the religious teachings that inspired the musical in the first place. “I’d be a believer if it was all just song and dance,” Jacklin sings on the track. Again, rather than praying for a deeply religious purpose, Jacklin, who would have been a young kid when Princess Diana was in her fatal car crash in 1997, sings “Eyes to the board, thoughts to our Lord. We were praying for Princess Diana.”
That’s not the only song that tackles religion, and the singer’s complex feelings about the pressures that growing up in religion puts on kids. “I know you were raised by the church and encouraged to keep it all in,” Jacklin sings on “Be Careful With Yourself.”
Musically, it’s also her most ambitious album yet, especially in tracks like “Ignore Tenderness,” which sees a sweeping and grand string section fill in behind the alt-country singer’s traditional low-key instrumentation to lift the song to a stunning conclusion. But it’s not as if Jacklin drifts so far away from her indie folk roots that fans will take this as a departure from her previous music, rather it’s just an elevation.
That’s also evident on one of the album’s highlights, “I Was Neon,” which immediately breaks into an electric guitar riff, supported by a full band. It’s interesting that in the song, which is one of Jacklin’s most different from her previous work, she questions “Am I going to lose myself again?” Sure, the different strides the singer’s taking on the album may not be exactly what she’s referring to, but I’d argue that she’s not so much losing herself, as just finding different aspects of herself through this album.
The lyrics looking both into the future and reflecting on the past are a good metaphor for this album and Jacklin’s career as a whole. This is her third album, and it’s still deeply rooted in the same space as her previous two, but it also shows that Jacklin is ready to keep growing as an artist. There’s no pre about it, “Pre Pleasure” is simply a pleasure to listen to—an anxious, tender and heart-filled album bursting with love—and it’s exciting to think of where Jacklin will continue to grow from here.
In support of Pre Pleasure, Jacklin is kicking off a tour of North America in Stanford, CA on Aug. 26. The tour will take the alt-country singer through the United States, with stops in Canada as well before she heads over to the UK and Europe later this year.
Pre Pleasure is out now.