Erase the chatter quotient involved with the subtle, fragile presence through which an artist like Jessica Pratt channels her work. The cross-noise, the fluttering, the hiss and the pomp serve the larger picture of Pratt’s story as a terminally unknown singer/songwriter from Northern California whose notoriety came only after her initial batch of home-recorded songs were some five or six years old, and she’d played only a handful of shows. All that interference, however, ought to be ignored, if even briefly, when listening to Pratt’s second full-length record?and first for Drag City?On Your Own Love Again. At its core, this follow-up to 2012’s JP is as whimsically experimental as it is steeped and reveling in its own revivalism.
Armed with little more than a guitar, some rudimentary tape-tracking recording materials and a a treasure trove of inventive vocal harmonies, Pratt’s darkly ambitious compositions are fleshed out into alcoves of aural mischief, served mystical and with a kind of dark magic, vacillating as they do between optimism and pessimism. Opening with “Wrong Hand,” Pratt folds in ethereal wind-kissed organ, finger-picking delicately and crooning “Saw you running round the world with your head above the ground/and you’re dancing too close behind, with a dowry in a hidden shroud/And you don’t know how you got here before/You were dancing with the wrong hand,” followed by a sweeping vocal placeholder, a welcome vocal necessity given Pratt’s affinity for the skeletons of songs to drive them?a kind of Hemingway-esque theory of omission.
“Game That I Play” continues Pratt’s moody meditations, exposing her willingness to rappel deep into shadowy rabbit holes, utilizing perhaps her most potent musical weapon: her voice. Shape-shifting and witchy, Pratt dives in and out of accents, plays with timbre and generally focuses on expanding songs from primarily a primitive, lost-folk plane to one where her pop culture muses are all given a sonic pathway on which to dance around. A good example of this would be found on “Strange Melody,” wherein Pratt’s “do-do-do-do” refrains during the bridge evolve into more vocal placeholders in the form of the familiar “do-do-do-do” melody of Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf.”
The album’s first single “Back, Baby” is easily the most accessible track on the record, peppy and sun-kissed like the climate of her newfound home in Los Angeles, where Pratt retreated with little outside exposure while writing On Your Own Love Again after fleeing San Francisco. Pratt sings “You better reconsider all the love you took and then cast aside/Things like that you can never take back again,” sounding forlorn yet boldly mature. The guitar’s strummy progression also marks a turning point in the album, one where those previously noted delicacies are cast away ever-so slightly?a lifting of the clouds, so to speak. Now that the skies are clearer, it’s exciting to see where Pratt’s new flights might take her.