Music that makes you feel: Every stage of a breakup

In “Music that Makes You Feel,” columnist Sam Waddoups ’23 recommends albums that take the listener through a specific emotional journey. This week, he covers two albums shaped by breakups: Julia Jacklin’s “Crushing” and Laura Marling’s “Song for Our Daughter.”

There’s nothing worse than taking a math exam in the wake of a breakup. 

But that’s where my freshman fall found me. After my first Math 19 midterm, I wandered back to my dorm through a dark, empty campus. My body was overwhelmed by post-exam jitters and the distress of a pre-college breakup. I was, as my friends would put it, still reeling and healing. I put in my earbuds.

I knew exactly the album I needed at that moment, thinking of lost love as I walked through an abandoned Engineering Quad: “Crushing,” by Julia Jacklin.

Jacklin sang a lullaby for heartbreak over a gently strummed guitar, whispering in my ear:

I’ll be okay, I’ll be alright

I’ll get well soon, sleep through the night

Don’t know how you’re doing, but that’s what I get

I can’t be the one to hold you when I was the one

Who left

Jacklin’s sophomore album features songs that inhabit each moment of a breakup. It documents entrenched conflicts and desires to break free (“Head Alone” and “Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You”), the moment of the breakup (“Turn Me Down”), immediate attempts to recover from an emotional crisis (“Pressure to Party” and “When The Family Flies In”) and the long-term muted melancholy (“Body” and “Comfort”). No matter what emotional place you’re at in the end of a turbulent relationship, there’s a song for you.

The writing on every song is simultaneously candid and gentle, reassuring the listener with its spare expression. On the up-tempo “Pressure to Party,” Jacklin describes the temptation to get back with an ex in a deadpan but heartbreaking way: “I would run, shoes off, straight back to you / I know where you live, I used to live there too.” 

The song’s lyrics and anguished but up-tempo tone capture the exact frenetic spirit of a post-heartbreak night out as she sings, “I’ll open up the door and try to love again soon / Try to love again soon.” Jacklin is caught between impulses — to party, to take time for herself, to get back with her ex, to find someone new — and this specificity of emotion makes the song a rare case of a fast tune that can break your heart.

Jacklin’s voice is distinctive but adaptable, always delivering exactly what a track needs: the impressive upper-register riffs on “Turn Me Down” that turn into a scream, the folksy patter on “You Were Right” and “Pressure to Party.” Her delivery makes her well-written lines even clearer in their perceptive, but frustrated and broken tone.

For all the broken emotions of the album, Jacklin concludes with the lullaby I listened to on my dark walk back to my dorm — “Comfort.” It provides a realistic comfort: “You’ll go outside, enjoy the sun / Soon you’ll be fine to see everyone.” You may not know where your ex-lover is right now, but they’re okay, and you’ll be okay, too. 


Laura Marling’s “Song for Our Daughter” is another album about the loss of love. Although it doesn’t orbit around the theme as much as Julia Jacklin’s “Crushing” does, its tracks see love at an arm’s length, giving even the sweetest sentiments a sigh of melancholy. “Love is a sickness cured by time,” she sings on “Only The Strong.”

Marling writes in a similar indie-folk singer-songwriter style as Jacklin, though she plays it more classically in the tradition of her famous forebears. Her style emulates and matches the greatest songwriters of the past century, evoking Joni Mitchell (all throughout, but especially in “Blow By Blow” and “The End Of The Affair”) and Bob Dylan (in “Alexandra” and “Strange Girl”). She crafts groovy choruses and lyrical quips (like the line “Announced yourself a socialist to have something to defend” in “Strange Girl”) as easily as gentle melodies and devastating scenes. 

The album’s standout track, “The End Of The Affair,” would be a soothing acoustic tune if it weren’t so drenched with tragedy. The song follows the quiet final moment of a relationship, as both people sit together, resigned to their end but still sad to walk away for the last time. Marling’s voice is comforting and caring even as it sings the heartbreaking final lines:

The end of the affair

I try to keep us there

Shake hands and say goodnight

I love you, goodbye

Now let me live

My life 

Thankfully, for all Marling’s small moments of regret and sadness, she finishes the album on a sweet and loving note, concluding like Jacklin with a song of reassurance. The album’s final track, “For You,” is an ode to lifelong love, whether it be platonic, familial or romantic. 

“Love is not the answer, but a line that marks the start,” Marling sings. “For You” provides a comfort to all the heartbroken: love may not be everything you hope, but it will be there eventually. One day, it will return, to mark the start of a new era of your life. 

If I could go back to that night walking home, turbulent-hearted, the cold night after my math exam, that’s what I would tell myself. Love will always return, and you will hold it close once more.

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.

Originally posted 2023-06-09 04:54:58.