opinion byMATTHEW MALONE
Jessica Pratt’s 2012 debut was quite possibly the crudest diamond the rough has ever seen. Not only were the 11 tracks recorded with the most lo-fi, raspy equipment out of the 20th century, but the album also failed to effectively catch the ear of too many passersby, and it ended up sitting on a dusty shelf, shimmering with beauty and waiting patiently for a chance to unravel. Hopefully, with the inevitable recognition of On Your Own Love Again, Pratt’s sharper follow-up, people will take a step back to hear where this ghost of the 1960s began to crystallize.
While the comparisons to early-70s songstresses like Karen Dalton and Sibylle Baier have been so heavily pasted onto Pratt’s style (albeit appropriately so), this album gives Ms. Pratt less of a chance to blend in as a faux-relic. “I didn’t want people to think I was just a basic bitch, you know?” Pratt recently stated. Personally, I can’t imagine anyone listening to her first record and picturing an Ugg-wearing, pumpkin-spice-sipping ingénue strumming the guitar that exquisitely, but she has definitely restructured her songs to be less quaint and ignorable. There are 9 songs here, and each hits pretty damn hard.
To my technically untrained ear, On Your Own Love Again sounds like it’s teeming with misshapen chord patterns. Her plucking remains beautiful, of course, but it has adopted a tendency to meander as freely as Joanna Newsom’s harp might on her 16-minuters. “Game That I Play” and “I’ve Got A Feeling,” standouts on the record, find Jessica’s thrumming and cooing both ominous and sweet. No emotion presented here is simple, and each instrumental accompaniment employed works like heart of mercury, fluidly changing manifestations and paths. And in that sense, Pratt gives us closer insight to real emotion — the kind so elaborate you find it physically impossible to articulate — than most singer-songwriters do. She mixes bitter into the once-purely sweet, and the result is far more poignant than any of her previous work.
“Back, Baby,” an effigy of classic pop engraved with stunning lyrics, marks another moment of glory. This is Pratt at her most direct. Her love is no longer elusive, a road curved like a toucan’s nose, but “just a myth I devised…and then cast aside.” Lyrically, this album hones in on love — falling in, falling out, and bumbling around in it — in a much sharper way than its predecessor. If her debut was somewhat whimsical at its core, this one is bewitching, unafraid to be honest at the risk of losing charm. But it doesn’t at all. It just adds some more substance into the mix, making it that much easier to flip between Side A and B and back again, each time dissecting more layers of Pratt’s truly beautiful work. With On Your Own Love Again, Jessica Pratt has crafted a record that is as accessible as it is complex, two traits that she proves are not mutually exclusive. B