Jessica Pratt - Quiet Signs

jessica pratt_quiet signs.jpg

Jessica Pratt’s third studio album Quiet Signs is her most captivating work yet. Her hushed and contemplative compositions are at her most realized.

 The intimacy of Pratt’s music is the most prominent appeal; it feels as if you are sitting in on the recording sessions yourself. She takes on a less-is-more approach with her gentle nylon string strums and quiet vocals carrying the majority of the record.

Quiet Signs feels almost mythological. An otherworldly haze reverberates throughout each one of these songs. Instead of walls of sound, Pratt commands the listener with an understated softness. With its deceptive simplicity, Quiet Signs mesmerizes with cavernous depth. Jessica Pratt has a profound understanding of space and the effectiveness of silence within music.

“Opening Night,” the first song, is a majestic piano instrumental that wastes no time in building the ethereal atmosphere. “As the World Turns,” the second track and the first featuring Pratt’s vocals, is meticulously crafted, her echoing vocals intertwining with her delicate guitar playing. Lyrically she outlines a world-weary anxiety that serves as Quiet Signs’ overarching thesis statement:  “More than just an outline born of fear; I won't find solace here.”

With the sparseness of the music executed so well, the smallest embellishments feel that much more grand and pronounced. For example, “Fare Thee Well” features bouncy keys hidden deep within the mix. The track closes out with a bewitching flute interlude.  And on “Here My Love,” Pratt subtly layers her voice on top of each other for an enchanting moment of harmonic bliss.

“This Time Around” is the standout song featuring Jessica’s most immediate vocal performance, showcasing her outstanding grasp of melody. Pratt muses on a spiritual unrest: “Your songbird singing the darkest hour of the night … It makes me want to cry.”

“Aeroplane” is the most densely textured song here. An organ drones below her nylon strings while a tambourine twinkles over top. It’s not a grandiose ending by any means. But considering the context, it is a perfectly restrained climax to end on.

Jessica Pratt delivers on a pastoral affair that reminisces of an intimate lounge performance in Greenwich Village.  At 27 minutes, the brevity of Quiet Signs may be detrimental if Pratt didn’t so strongly demand the listener to restart from the beginning as soon as it’s over.

Grade: A-

Matt Marciniec