Published Jan 23, 2015Where the hell has Natalie Prass been hiding all this time? The singer/songwriter might best be known as a member of Jenny Lewis' backing band during her most recent tour; with the release of her long-gestating debut album on January 27, this will definitely change. Natalie Prass marks a solid entrance from an assured new talent; it's an absolutely lovely soul record, shot through with the wistfulness of heartbreak country.
Stylistically, the album is an interesting, yet comfortably familiar creation. The album is more or less defined by its glittering patina of soul, with Prass' delicate voice anchored by Spacebomb's solid crew of studio players. Prass' songs are ideally suited to these fulsome yet wistful arrangements; these are torch songs, gently lamenting the long-term ache of a romance gone wrong. "You don't leave me no choice but to run away," Prass sings on the upbeat and radio-ready "Bird of Prey."
Prass' voice is not one you'd immediately associate with these deceptively upbeat but deeply wounded types of songs — her voice has a sweet and deeply lyrical lilt that refuses to occupy more space than it requires, and it provides a startling contrast to the bright, golden bursts of horn and shuffling piano. On the album's best song, "Why Don't You Believe In Me," Prass sighs: "You pretend as if you don't know/ how it's bringing me down," and the listener shares in that exhalation, too. Prass' stock is that knowing sense of catharsis, rather than the exultant wail of longing. In that sense, she often has more in common with, say, Rita Coolidge than Dusty Springfield, but it makes the record no less effective.
The final song on the album, "It Is You," does an abrupt swing into musical theatre territory; it explodes with rapturous strings as Prass does her best Judy Garland impression and a whimsical flute trills. You can almost see the technicolour end credits rising on the screen across a pink-tinted background — she's gonna be okay, everyone! It's fine, if that's your bag, but it's a weird closer. I think the album reaches its true climax in "Violently," when Prass begs for her loving bones to be broken and the strings swell helplessly in assent. Natalie Prass is a beautiful record that does best when it prods the sweet ache of failed romance. (Spacebomb Records)