Jessica Pratt, “Quiet Signs”
Nothing fills the stillness in a room like one of Jessica Pratt’s songs. Her past two albums have proven just how adept she is at creating perfectly crafted, melancholic bits of imagery—often with only her voice and an acoustic guitar. Her melodies hold nary a wasted chord or unwanted phrase. To call it folk music feels like a misnomer.
Pratt’s first album to be conjured up in the studio, Quiet Signs, is abetted by Al Carlson and Matt McDermott, who add texture via flute, piano, and synthesized strings. The record steps into focus with an instrumental that sounds like someone playing a lost Erik Satie piece in the attic. As spare as this album is, it’s also the first of hers to feel like a whole piece, rather than a selection of hazy bits of poetry whispered alone.
A track like “As the World Turns” features a cyclical, simple chord progression—but she wraps a melody around it like clouds of incense smoke. This track and “Crossing” feel most rooted in the late ’60s mod girl folk perpetuated by Vashti, Nico, Marianne, and more, with a dash of Buffalo Springfield’s singular ode to bliss, “Expecting to Fly,” thrown in.
Pratt’s vocals are the kind you need to hear in a small room, elbow-to-elbow, seated on a shag carpet or leaning against a tapestry-laden wall. Her world isn’t one of primal exhortations, but rather sighs and carefully measured three-minute pieces of songcraft. “Poly Blue,” “Fare Thee Well,” “This Time Around,” and “Here My Love” are tracks that could have been written with Chet Baker’s trumpet in mind, her voice conflating words with sound in such a way that it’s almost disorienting. So yeah, put this album on in the rain—or in the sunshine—or really anytime you have to take a breath, and surrender to its warm incandescence.