On Your Own Love Again
(Drag City; 2015)
By Maura McAndrew | 13 February 2015
Jessica Pratt’s On Your Own Love Again can best be described as a mood piece. It’s one of those records that you can play over and over in the background—as you cook, or drive, or clean the house—and it affects you, almost imperceptibly. It changes the way you feel, and likewise the way you feel changes it, making it difficult to really take in, in the strictest sense. Even “Back, Baby,” the first single and the song I’ve played the most, seems just out of reach when I try to remember it. I’ll hum the pre-chorus and chorus in the shower, wracking my brain to try to remember the verse, or the tiny connecting melody between verse and chorus. Between the first and second time I heard it, I realize I was remembering an entirely different song, something cobbled together from other stored remembrances of melody. Even when I sat down next to my record player with the lyrics right in front of me (Drag City does not include downloads with their vinyl, forcing us all to be old school), Pratt’s words and melodies slip and slide so elusively that I found myself thinking the end of one song was the beginning of the next, and singing along with melodies that I could not pin down once I had finished the record.
On Your Own Love Again is Pratt’s second album; the first, self-titled, was released in 2011 at the urging of her friend Tim Presley of White Fence. Fans of Jessica Pratt will find much to love here, as it sticks to the same 1960s psych folk sound, perhaps upping the complexity and playfulness just a touch. Pratt’s voice is a striking, earthy warble; comparisons to Joanna Newsom and Karen Dalton are inevitable, but the way Pratt travels from reedy high notes to dusky low ones is all her own, and there’s something about her that feels less open than Newsom, darker and more unknowable. On Your Own Love Again is a fairly brief record, mixing short-and-sweet tunes (the upbeat “Greycedes,” “On Your Own Love Again,” the lovely “Jacquelyn in the Background”) and some of the more epic variety (the enthralling “Game that I Play,” “Strange Melody”). The longer, twistier songs work better because of Pratt’s facility with melody: there’s not a lot of verse/chorus/verse here, and even when there is, the transitions between are complex enough to made these songs feel meandering, but still get to the point—nearly every song begins straightaway with Pratt’s vocal, clearly focused on her words and voice over instrumentation.
An instantly noticeable change from Jessica Pratt is the production, or lack thereof on On Your Own Love Again. While most artists would choose to upgrade technology with a second record on a higher profile label, Pratt does it the other way around, swapping the studio for her 4-track in her LA apartment. As she recently told Stereogum, “I was pretty sad and lonely at the time because I had just moved to LA.” And that feeling is captured perfectly in the record, which feels mysterious, lonely, and timeless, not unlike two of my favorite “lost” record reissues in recent years, Sibylle Baier’s Colour Green and Connie Converse’s How Sad, How Lovely. Of course Pratt’s a contemporary artist and not trying to hide it, but the style and sound of the record is homemade and un-trendy enough to feel like a curiosity from a bygone era.
The 4-track recording, in particular, does wonders for Pratt’s songs by lending them a dusty, antique quality that’s oh-so-inviting on a rainy afternoon. What could easily sound like just another bedroom recording is imbued with an intimate, heady atmosphere, mostly due to Pratt’s layered guitar and vocal harmonies, and the way her melodies and lyrics tend to feel like climbing winding staircases, feet tripping over each other. Pratt’s lyrics are nothing too memorable, but they stick to the same slightly mystical, Donovan vibe as the music, particularly on more baroque tracks like “Strange Melody,” “Game That I Play,” and the charmingly ditzy “Moon Dude”: “Moon dude, you can try the weight / Of your body now in outer space / In time, you can cast your gaze on our planet lines.”
“Back, Baby” is the obvious standout here in every way, the lead single that prompted me to go out and buy Pratt’s first record as well as this one. I must admit a slight disappointment that the rest of On Your Own Love Again didn’t quite seem to live up. Not easy to do, though, as it’s a wonderfully crafted song, with enough changes to make it sound fresh after many listens. Pratt’s voice bends and twist through the cheerful pre-chorus and into the haunting refrains. “Sometimes I pray for the rain,” the songs begins, parsing a failed relationship in just a few repeated lines: “There was a time / That you loved me / There was a time / When you said that you want me / To believe” and “Things like that you can never take back again.” It’s devastating in its way, and charges along with a spark of momentum missing from some of Pratt’s other songs.
“Back, Baby” alone is enough to make On Your Own Love Again worthwhile, but it fits so snugly into the tapestry of the record that it would be a shame to isolate it. Though not necessarily a record that makes you stand up and take notice, Pratt writes the kind of songs that can pull you in. If On Your Own Love Again catches you at the right time, on the right rainy afternoon when all you want to do is pull the covers over your head, it may just become a favorite. Sometimes it’s the quiet, polychromatic records that stick with us the longest.