Music

Jessica Pratt: Jessica Pratt

Jessica Pratt's debut album works with the tropes of Laurel Canyon folk.


Jessica Pratt

Jessica Pratt

Label: Birth
US Release Date: 2013-05-14
UK Release Date: 2013-05-20
Amazon
iTunes

Jessica Pratt is wary of being pigeonholed. She’s cautious about her connection to the current music scene in San Francisco, where she lives. San Fran groups like Thee Oh Sees, the Fresh and Onlys, and Sonny and the Sunsets have been glorying in the sounds of the '60s -- pop, folk, rock, psych -- for years now, and Pratt’s aesthetic, though sparer and lonelier, seems of a piece with their mission to explore and mix older forms in the search of heady new combinations. But when asked about San Francisco’s music by The Fader, Pratt noted, "I think it’s a little deceptive...I don’t really feel like there’s that much new, exciting stuff happening here...that’s also part of the reason why it’s taken me so long to get going with this. I don’t really feel like there’s a competitive music scene here."

Pratt’s also hesitant to embrace the old California folk scene. She claims she’s not trying to make "purely traditional old-school folk" in the modes of early Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez. Despite this, Laurel Canyon, and more specifically the work of Mitchell, looms large on Pratt’s self-titled debut album.

Jessica Pratt tells stories of both change -- "In this town, I walk by your door/ things change, I can’t see you anymore" -- and its absence, "you go the places that we’ve gone, before/ never changing," often within the same song. "Some days are long and/ Summer days are hard/ I was dragging my feet across the parking lot/ I remember sad faces in the mirror behind me," she sings to start the record. The closing track, "Dreams," brings in what sounds like it might be a male voice, hazily harmonized. "Here I am stuck here thinking about you again," sing Pratt and her partner, and then the song stops. The album goes many places, but Pratt’s still thinking as it comes to a close.

It may not be what she’s shooting for, but that early Mitchell sound -- like on Clouds, when Mitchell was working mainly in the folk vein, singing and playing alone, produced by David Crosby -- is hard to ignore on Pratt’s album. Pretty much the only sounds that appear on Jessica Pratt are Pratt and a closely-recorded acoustic guitar, picking spidery melodies and pleasing circles that form the backbone of so many post-'60s folk songs. She’s got high, twirling vocals, which tend to spiral and pirouette a graceful but irregular arc from point A to B, rather than following a straight line.

But Pratt’s her own entity. Her voice isn’t as otherworldly as Mitchell’s, or as theatrical; there’s less edge. Pratt has no interest in Mitchell’s faster tracks built with hard strumming. And Pratt’s mode of singing stays constant. Mitchell would switch her attack up as she saw fit for additional impact. Instead, Pratt adds variety to her vocals with her multi-tracked self, like on the album opener "Night Faces" (which incorporates just a touch of Mitchell’s old pal Neil Young).

Sometimes Pratt’s nervousness about being looped into a scene extends to her album’s production. Some songs are cloaked in hissing tape, and her lyrics can be difficult to make out. But she doesn’t have to worry too much. When an artist starts out, being pigeonholed may not be the worst thing in the world.

6
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The 60 Best Albums of 2007

From tech house to Radiohead and Americana to indie and everything in between, the 60 best albums of 2007 included many of the 2000s' best albums.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Solitude Stands in the Window: Thoreau's 'Walden'

Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a 19th century model for 21st century COVID-19 quarantine.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Will COVID-19 Kill Movie Theaters?

Streaming services and large TV screens have really hurt movie theaters and now the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered multiplexes and arthouses. The author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America, however, is optimistic.

Gary D. Rhodes, Ph.D
Television

Fleabag's Hot Priest and Love as Longing

In season two of Fleabag, The Priest's inaccessibility turns him into a sort of god, powerful enough for Fleabag to suddenly find herself spending hours in church with no religious motivation.

Music

Annabelle's Curse's 'Vast Oceans' Meditates on a Groundswell of Human Emotions (premiere)

Inspired by love and life, and of persistent present-day issues, indie folk band Annabelle's Curse expand their sound while keeping the emotive core of their work with Vast Oceans.

Music

Americana's Sarah Peacock Finds Beauty Beneath Surface With "Mojave" (premiere + interview)

Born from personal pain, "Mojave" is evidence of Sarah Peacock's perseverance and resilience. "When we go through some of the dry seasons in our life, when we do the most growing, is often when we're in pain. It's a reminder of how alive you really are", she says.

Television

Power Struggle in Beauty Pageants: On 'Mrs. America' and 'Miss Americana'

Television min-series Mrs. America and Taylor Swift documentary Miss Americana make vivid how beauty pageants are more multi-dimensional than many assume, offering a platform to some (attractive) women to pursue higher education, politics, and more.

Hilary Levey Friedman
Music

Pere Ubu 'Comes Alive' on Their New, Live Album

David Thomas guides another version of Pere Ubu through a selection of material from their early years, dusting off the "hits" and throwing new light on some forgotten gems.

Music

Woods Explore Darkness on 'Strange to Explain'

Folk rock's Woods create a superb new album, Strange to Explain, that mines the subconscious in search of answers to life's unsettling realities.

Music

The 1975's 'Notes on a Conditional Form' Is Laudably Thought-Provoking and Thrilling

The 1975 follow A Brief Inquiry... with an even more intriguing, sprawling, and chameleonic song suite. Notes on a Conditional Form shows a level of unquenchable ambition, creativity, and outspoken curiosity that's rarely felt in popular music today.

Music

Dustbowl Revival's "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)" Is a Cheeky Reproach of COVID-19 (premiere)

Inspired by John Prine, Dustbowl Revival's latest single, "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)", approaches the COVID-19 pandemic with wit and good humor.

Books

The 2020 US Presidential Election Is Going to Be Wild but We've Seen Wild Before

Americans are approaching a historical US presidential election in unprecedented times. Or are they? Chris Barsanti's The Ballot Box: 10 Presidential Elections That Changed American History gives us a brief historical perspective.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.