Album Picks: Jessica Pratt, Twerps, Natalie Prass

Posted by Billy Gil, January 27, 2015 10:56am | Post a Comment

Jessica Pratt On Your Own Love Again

Jessica Pratt’s voice is something special, a breathy, elfin coo that calls to mind Marc Bolan’s spirited yelp as well as Vashti Bunyan’s inward-facing whispers, channeled through Pratt’s own wry, observational tone. “I see you standing wasted alone in my mind,” she sings directly on opener “Wrong Hand,” but such a line doesn’t feel bitter coming from Pratt’s mouth, as if it’s a gentle warning rather than a harsh truth. “People’s faces blend together like a watercolor you can’t remember in time,” she sings with precision at the outset of “Game That I Play.” Her guitar playing feels nimble yet immediate, leaving in missed notes in the one-take-sounding, stark and lo-fi “Strange Melody,” while her intriguing fingerings and tunings seem to draw inspiration from Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake, though the way she contorts her voice from a floating, teetering high register to a disconcerting low feels entirely unique. The songs themselves are allowed to meander, though never indulgently; rather, On Your Own Love Again feels exceptionally well edited, its serpentine arrangements remaining relatively coiled. “Game That I Play” manages to sneak in a stunning second movement while keeping the song trim at just over four minutes. And she doesn’t overstay her welcome. At just more than half an hour, Pratt ends her second album leaving you wanting more, turning over her curious phrases and mystical voice to uncover their secrets, especially on one of the album’s final and best songs, “Back, Baby”—its pensive breakup lyrics like “your love is just a myth I devised” sting softly amid loping, seaside acoustic guitar. On Your Own Love Again is gorgeous through and through, and it’s easily one of the best albums of this early new year.


Twerps Range Anxiety

With a bit of Stephen Malkmus’ wry slackerdom and the jangle-rock of New Zealand and their native Australia, Twerps come up with a winning indie-rock recipe on Range Anxiety. Their second album is full of laid-back, dreamy songs that go down smoothly but pack sweet nice hooks and lyrics—singer/guitarist Martin Frawley has a nice way of drawing you in, at first telling his significant other “I don’t mind if you stay, I don’t mind if you go” on the languid “I Don’t Mind” before changing his mind—“let’s give it another shot … let’s put the puzzle back together our way” he implores coolly. Co-singer/guitarist Julia McFarlane makes a wonderfully confident foil on the forthright “Stranger.”“Back to You” has this infectious synth-flute riff that will bring wide smiles to fans of their predecessors in The Clean, while the dancing bassline and chiming guitars of “New Moves” are simply heavenly, like something The Go-Betweens would’ve written back in the day. One thing: Twerps don’t change much to the equation, save for a garagey, group-sing mentality on some tracks that does make Range Anxiety feel more current. You’ll probably be too busy bobbing your head along to songs like the bubbly “Simple Feelings” to care. For an album called Range Anxiety, this is an album makes you feel nothing but joy.


Natalie PrassNatalie Prass

This Nashville-based singer/songwriter channels Dusty Springfield on her self-titled debut, which is full of stunning string arrangements and pointed lyrics that delve into failed relationships. “Our love is a long goodbye,” she sings in a gentle coo on the stirring “My Baby Don’t Understand Me,” pulling back the horns and pianos like a velvet curtain to finish with the devastating line, “Where do you go when the only home that you know is with a stranger?” Tracks like “Why Don’t You Believe in Me” are given the perfect blue-eyed soul setting by co-producers Matthew E. White and Trey Pollard, its stately strings and curling guitar lines giving Prass’ lines room to land and sound resolute rather than wallowing. Natalie Prass is steeped in classic soul, and it’s about the oldest subject in the book, yet it never feels stuffy. Rather, it’s a classy, nuanced and well-presented debut that announces the arrival of a wonderful new talent.


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New Albums (213), New Releases (214), Album Picks (146), Jessica Pratt (10), Twerps (1), Natalie Prass (1)