Natalie Prass is a singer/songwriter based out of Nashville who used to sing backing vocals for Jenny Lewis. Her album has already received heaps of praise from TIME, Pitchfork, Q and The Guardian, and that’s actually how I came to discover it. I read a few positive reviews and then I had to check it out. When that many critics rave about something, then usually they’re right. Not always, but often enough. And guess what? They were totally on point about this one. It’s amazing! To my ears, it sounds more like Jenny Lewis’ first two solo albums than her last album, The Voyager. Don’t get me wrong — I love The Voyager. But there was more of an organic sound on Jenny’s first two records and organic is one of the words I’d use to describe Natalie’s album. I say this because it’s comprised of a whole lot of lush, real live instruments, including glorious strings and shimmering horns, most of which were arranged and produced by Matthew E White and Trey Pollard at Spacebomb Records in Virginia. If there’s any synth or electronic parts on this album, I certainly have not noticed them. That said, Natalie actually played keyboards for Jenny Lewis while singing her backing vocals, so it’s not as though she hates them or anything. (Maybe there are some here and I just can’t tell.) But she was going for a very natural sound on this album and she hit the bullseye. To my ears, it sounds like a cross between Carole King, Billie Holiday and early Dolly Parton. There’s definitely a ’70’s vibe going on here. A dash of the ’60’s, too.
Perhaps Natalie’s greatest gift is her ability to write lyrics that pierce your heart and soul, especially with all of the emotion she puts into singing them. One stand out is “My Baby Don’t Understand Me,” which finds her singing “our love was one goodbye” over and over in a way that tugs at your heartstrings and really hard at that. The horns alone are enough to move you, but Natalie’s voice just might move you to tears. “You don’t leave me no choice / But to run away / You are a bird of prey / With a heart like a knife,” she sings during “Bird of Prey,” one of the album’s most haunting cuts. Call it an album about doomed relationships. But Natalie is far from doomed. With talent like hers, she’s downright charmed.