No matter what number is attached to a new year, some things never change — 2015 is no exception so far. Despite it’s short lifespan, it’s already thrown out a number of new artists “to watch,” one of which is Natalie Prass, a southern songwriter whose name has been rightfully mentioned by many these past few weeks. Her self-titled LP is her first full-length offering, and its earnest, big-hearted persona and accomplished production make for a wonderfully poised calling card.
Although the lovelorn theme of the record is one that is universally common to pop music, the manner in which Prass picks out threads of infidelity and insecurity with her lyrics and voice lends a real heartfelt authenticity to her tales of jaded relationships. This can be found either in a single line (Where do you go/When the only home that you know is with a stranger) or within an entire song. A shining example of the latter would be “Christy”, a sweeping ballad built for musical theater that sees Prass plead to a would-be third party. Although tinged with sweetness, there is also an almost tangible delicacy underlining her voice as it glides over dazzling string work. Like the core thematic foundations of the record, this duality of vulnerability and optimism might not be unique but it’s delivered in a way that consistently pricks your attention.
Musically speaking her debut offers quite a slice of versatility. On one hand you have grand, dramatic flourishes like the aforementioned “Christy” and the show stealing finale “It Is You”, a track which wouldn’t be out of place in the pampered hands of a Disney princess. Yet alongside these more elaborate examples there is a heavy influence of warm, organic pop taken straight out of the mid-70s. Mixing lush string work with brass sections, woodwind phrases and honky tonk piano licks, it quickly becomes apparent that Prass is just as comfortable walking amongst the likes of Carole King as she is standing center stage. It’s not just the different styles she exhibits and eludes to here that impresses the most, it’s what she does within the framework of these inspired directions. Prass is somebody who clearly understands that there are more than two dimensions to a musical composition, and by using the foreground, background and the area in between, she makes good use of the space she occupies. By doing this, her songs come out robust and full-bodied.
The album does seem to sag a little in the middle when compared to its dazzling opening and enchanting ending, Prass does a great deal to solidify her presence, showcase her potential and prove that she is a great deal more than just new years hype. A great start to the year and a great start to this talented young ladies career.