The San Francisco-based singer/songwriter Jessica Pratt’s first self-titled record felt like it beamed from a lost archive of folk music, left undisturbed until she was discovered by Tim Presley, who was so moved by Pratt’s music that he released the album for her.
On Your Own Love Again, her second album, is released on Drag City, an independent label with large roster including Bill Callahan, Joanna Newsom, Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Presley’s own band White Fence.
The album doesn’t deviate too much from an intimate place which allows Pratt and sparse accompaniment space to fill up the track. Guitars are finger-picked along with the harmony-boosted vocals with some gentle woodwind, percussion or clavinet. The difference this time around is the album has its own sense of place, helped by the short recording time compared to the first album’s five year period.
Comparisons to Callahan, Karen Dalton, Linda Perhacs, Nick Drake, Nico or Vashti Bunyan no longer feel as right as they once did, Pratt has made her own grain in the wood of these songs. Her enchanting vintage timbre lulls us into a bedrock of folk psychedelia, the notes melting away the songs into a gentle lap. A palpable sense of eeriness is present, in the rolling “doo-doo-doo” passages of ‘Strange Melody’, in lyrics which announce themselves but soon dissipate out of a narrative: “people whose faces blend together like a watercolour you can’t remember,” she sings on ‘Games We Play’. Pratt audibly melts into silence via a lower tone twist on ‘Jacqueline In The Background’.
Yes, the songs feel like they come from the same place but the blurriness leads to a reinforced dreaminess that works better for the album as background-setting 31 minutes and nine tracks than individual nuggets.
It’s a spell only really broken by the album’s last two songs. The immediate pop lean of ‘Back, Baby’ is direct in its sentiment and aim: a lover who “better reconsider all the love you took in and then cast aside,” while the short last track feels stark in its honesty “I tried to believe in you somehow but every time, I do I get down and out.”
LOAH is a new soulful contemporary jazz-leaning singer you might have seen at Electric Picnic or Body & Soul’s Shapeshifter’s Ball this year. She’s playing her debut headline gig with Ensemble Music on Saturday in Twisted Pepper and on evidence of the above video for her song ‘Cortége’, you might want to be there.
The song title refers to a solemn procession and it is sung in the Sierra Leone languages Sherbro and Mend. Loah will be joined on-stage on Saturday by a band of Irish jazz and soul musicians. Here’s an Irish Times interview with her.
We promise a podcast every month in 2013. It’s our new blog resolution. Here’s the first of the year and the forty-second Podcast in the series. Aoife Mc and I talk about, and play some of my favourite tunes of the last few months. Artwork inspired by Frank B’s ‘Chain Of Fools’ as heard on this episode.
While Rihanna cavorting around the world courting the world’s music press on a 777 jet in an absurd and megalomaniacal marketing gimmick to promote her new album, you might wish for a simple time, with a more human approach. Jessica Pratt is comfortingly offering something else: from a different era, another planet.
It’s easy to hear why Jessica Pratt’s been called a retro American gal or a Californian folkie, those traditions are seeped in the San Francisco-based musician’s debut album. They are the first things you hear. The simplicity of a Greenwich Village folk musician or the plaintive sound of a ’70s LA suburb Laurel Canyon singer with just a voice and a guitar dominate. Ah, but what a voice. (more…)
Every Friday, four new music picks from music blogs worldwide are published as part of my Day & Night pages. Follow Day & Night on Twitter or Facebook. The magazine is out in in print free with every copy of the Irish Independent so pick it up!
Harking back to the singers associated with Laurel Canyon, Jessica Pratt is a San Francisco singer-songwriter who has been lifting hearts with her affecting folk songs that sound like they are beamed from the early ’70s.