Jessica Pratt – Quiet Signs

The quiet but powerful LA folk artist Jessica Pratt returns with an endlessly replayable collection of vintage songs on her third album Quiet Signs

Album Review by Tony Inglis | 07 Feb 2019
  • Jessica Pratt – Quiet Signs
Album title: Quiet Signs
Artist: Jessica Pratt
Label: City Slang / Mexican Summer
Release date: 8 Feb

As Opening Night, the introductory track from LA folk singer Jessica Pratt’s new album Quiet Signs, drifts in from what seems like a distant memory, the house lights go down. Leaving just a warm glow, you can almost see speckles of dust float in a solitary spotlight aimed squarely on piano keys jazzily being plucked away. It perfectly captures Pratt’s dreamily vintage aesthetic.

This short but endlessly replayable third record from the artist was reportedly made under the extremely fraught circumstances of a nervous breakdown, but sonically it's carefree and light of touch. Pratt is a quiet performer and each individual track is an exhibition of her ability to conjure a moment – a performance that feels incredibly up close. As such, her songs are unbothered with fuss.

And yet, Quiet Signs is her first collection recorded in a professional studio. The available resources that suggest haven’t gone into swamping her delicate voice, which remains the anchor here, but to lovely flourishes which waft in from the background to accompany her guitar playing: the lounge organ that supports This Time Around, and even a flute solo at the climax of Fare Thee Well. Most of these nine tracks hark back to the American folk tradition, but Crossing is an outlier. It has an air of the sinister, Pratt singing like a medieval harbinger atop her finger-picking.

Quiet Signs may be an overt step away from the lo-fi bedroom recordings of Pratt’s previous work, but this is not some shiny, pristine product. Pratt’s voice is still gorgeously muffled and her words remain indecipherable at times. But while she may have once sounded fragile, here she is almost swaggering. There’s no doubt she harks back to yesteryear, but Pratt’s music is not retrograde – these songs seem like lived-in classics, passed down from generation to generation.

Listen to: As the World Turns, This Time Around, Crossing