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Jessica Pratt
On Your Own Love Again Joe Sweeney , February 11th, 2015 12:32

When confronted with a record like Jessica Pratt's On Your Own Love Again, the first thing I think of is, unfortunately, Dave Grohl. Specifically, his 2012 Grammy speech, in which he rock-splained, "The human element of making music is what's most important. Singing into a microphone and learning to play an instrument … It's not about being perfect. It's not about sounding absolutely correct." Translation: Things like ProTools and AutoTune are stifling the creation of "organic" music, allowing any jerk-off with a computer and a Casio access to his once-elite club of professional recording artists.

On Your Own Love Again is exactly the kind of recording that Grohl would go to bat for. Recorded on a 4-track in California bedrooms, and featuring her voice, acoustic guitar and little else, Pratt's second effort screams authenticity. So much so that you have to wonder if the folkie doth protest too much. She cranks the tape hiss like a paranormal investigator straining to hear a spirit, and makes sure you hear every last string squeak, just in case you were wondering if this music was Intimate, or Personal, or True.

After one pass through the record, these suspicions aren't exactly debunked; but they certainly don't matter anymore. If the whole bedroom confessional approach is indeed a calculated brand play to appeal to the Grohlian contingent, then Pratt's one hell of a marketer. Because she is just the kind of enigmatic folksinger who sounds like she was meant to record alone, hurling complicated emotions into the void. Her voice pretty much defies comparison; the best I can do is to imagine Marianne Faithfull breathing some kind of Venusian helium. Her phrasing is messy, her pronunciation odd – "can" is "keen"; "time" is "tam" – but in the context of the psychedelic malaise of a song like "Moon Dude," these quirks can sound less like grating affectations and more like Pratt's own personal language. "You're looking in to the escalators humming / They are pulling you from nothing / But your loneliness," she sings. It's all a matter of how you like your descriptions of post-apocalyptic shopping centers prepared. I'll take mine weird, thank you very much.

It wouldn't be wrong to call On Your Own Love Again a breakup album. Images rise and fade of books that can't be deciphered, dances executed incorrectly, harmonies that go flat. But Pratt does her darnedest to cloud the details. She describes herself as "the better half of a strange melody" – it's up to us to figure out whether that's a good thing or not. When we hear that scratch of pick on acoustic, we're trained to expect some diary-entry-type emoting. Pratt plays against that expectation beautifully, leaving us just enough breadcrumbs to get us lost. She's comes off like a bit of a trickster, or a Dear John poet on Quaaludes.

The joys of her guitar playing, however, are clear as day. She interrupts some gorgeous finger-picked cascades with staccato minor notes, playing with a narrative thrust that gives the record its bone density. It sounds so much like Nick Drake at times that I have no choice but to sound like a lazy-ass critic and make a Nick Drake comparison.

What makes this record flirt with greatness is its fractured light at the end of the tunnel. 'Back, Baby' rides a breezy bossa nova groove and a bevy of French cocktail party melodies to a place that the artist hasn't revealed that she could go before – a sun-streaked seat above the clouds. The rain metaphors can't fool us, or stop us from singing along. It frames the rest of On Your Own Love Again, gives it purpose, removes any hint of a slog. On the chorus, she even sings that we "can go back" to happier times. Or wait, shit. Is it "can't"? I honestly can't tell. At the risk of sounding like Grohl, god bless that imperfection.