Jessica Pratt - On Your Own Love Again

by Hayden Harman Rating:8 Release Date:2015-01-26

What never ceases to amaze me is how, in 2015, amid the ubiquity of electronic and laptop generated music (what I’ll dub as the Age of Ableton), traditional, folky singer-songwriter types still manage to capture our ever-decreasing attention-spans. Jessica Pratt is one of those singer-songwriters who is just too compelling to ignore, which she proves again on her second album, On Your Own Love Again. The album sounds like it could have been recorded in any decade since the 60s, and her voice, like

, carries with it a timeless wisdom, seasoned by experience.

But Pratt is younger than she sounds; she's only 27. Pratt wrote and recorded these songs in a transitory phase in her life, when she relocated from Los Angeles to a small home San Francisco.

She recorded the minimal guitar and vocals on a four-track recorder in her home, evoking Nick Drake’s masterpiece Pink Moon. Besides the similarity of sparse arrangements, there is a spiritual camaraderie On Your Own Love Again shares with that album. But if Pink Moon is pastoral and autumnal in mood, Pratt’s album is its bleakly urban and wintery twin.

“You have to feel uncomfortable occasionally,” said Pratt in an interview published on Flavorwire. That sentiment comes across on the first third of the album, where the songs are constantly shifting in mood and feel. Some of these shifts feel uncomfortable to the listener, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

From the album’s title, one can already guess that Pratt’s lyrics are introverted and personal. As a listener, you feel as if you've casually stumbled into one of Pratt’s dreams. The dreaminess is probably a personal philosophical choice as much as an aesthetic one (she mentioned listening to Van Dyke Parks’ oniric Song Cycle while writing and recording this album). Mimicking that dreamy state, the nine songs on On Your Own Love Again fade in and out of consciousness and even coherence; for every phrase resolved, another melodic possibility presents itself.

Pratt has a subtle sense of humor, as her voice shape-shifts, often multiple times within a single song. The best example of this is 'Greycedes', where she imitates Nico's deep gravity one second and then Kate Bush’s nymphet, upper-register call another. Later, on 'Jacquelyne in the Background', she shifts accents comically, perhaps as a homage to the British folk legends like Sandy Denny and Vashti Bunyan. Her ability to transform her voice so effortlessly is a similarity shared with fellow labelmate Joanna Newsom.

At heart, Pratt is a student of classic pop melodies, which are generously sprinkled throughout her songs to add to the dreaminess of the record. For example, on 'Strange Melody', I hear traces of Simon & Garfunkel and even late-60s abstract Beach Boys.

However, her most melodious track, which is also the album’s standout moment, is 'Back, Baby'. It is on this song, which is so full of past musical touchstones, that Pratt sings lines like “You can’t go back, baby” and “Things like that you can never take back again.” These are the moments on the album where Pratt sounds the most present, embracing the past but stepping beyond its protective veil to face the unavoidable now.

On Your Own Love Again rewards multiple listens, and you’ll find yourself humming the pleasant melodies hours after listening to it. It’s the sound of a rainy day; at times inviting and beautiful, while other times strange and distancing. But it’s that duality that makes it such a rewarding listening experience.

Though I’m confident that her best is still to come, Pratt’s second album has enough to keep us captivated until then. Pratt knows, like all great songwriters, that it isn’t only about finding 'hip' new sounds, but about reaching the human heart.

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