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Jessica Pratt is a sovereign of solitude and melancholy on her sophomore effort On Your Own Love Again. Every song on the album is sourced from a two-month period of voluntary isolation, but her dreamlike vocal melodies, minimal arrangements, and swirls of acoustic guitar flesh out the material to ensure no bleakness. While these nine acoustic songs rest easily upon ears acquainted with '60s and '70s folk, Pratt's embrace of all modes of female folk artists slot it with the genre mixture taking over the modern scene. In addition to the acoustic guitar, minor instruments like keyboard, strings, and electric guitar in singular arrangements add light to her California apartment, where the majority of these songs were recorded, and fill them out to allude to fuller arrangements, where Zombies-era instrumentation on quiet anthems like "Greycedes" and "Jacquelyn in the Background" is possible. Yes, there is enough contemplative guitar and vocal flourishes to situate her music with Vashti Bunyan, Joni Mitchell, and even German singer-songwriter Sibylle Baier, who I've just recently stumbled recently, and as atypical as those artists are, Pratt also has a rhythm and melody all her own. And there's enough atmosphere to awaken comparisons to the room-building folk of early Leonard Cohen.
But atmosphere and additional instrumentation are just framing devices, while Pratt's singing and finger picking are the main picture. She sets her signature melancholic tone right at the start with "Wrong Hand", which speaks fluidly about a breakup and the subsequent lack of direction that comes from being alone with one's dreams in the aftermath. Her eccentric, childish yet introspective voice lingers on these feelings like the album is her thesis. The tone allows her to sing ably, and strangely, about love, loss, and darkness. She falls into the brief "Greycedes" speaking about a soldier with vocal affectations reminiscent of a country artist, while on "Moon Dude", she digs into her songs from a much lower register, her alto adding more range and realism to her songs, which is no easy feat. She can even escape the somber mood for the last two songs, one of which is one of the best of the year. For "Back, Baby", she comes to the other side of her journey, the sunlight leaks into the haze, and she's finally at peace with whatever heartbreak she's been having to deal with, bright harmonies and glossy guitar helping her come to terms with moving on. She sings "And sometimes I pray for the rain", and it becomes a powerful statement.
Many outliers claim that her voice is a put-on that is strange just to be strange, but when you have an album that has much of a wide range of sounds coming from one voice like this one, the peculiarities in the music become the strengths. Out of its thirty or so minutes, the listener is bound to stumble upon a cleverness and simplicity to her choices, like the breathless coos and vocal runs that pop up everywhere. This album is as well-written as any of her forebearers could hope to release this early into their career, which begs the question: why not reuse old materials when you can refabricate it into something as charming and confident as On Your Own Love Again?