“this Time Around” By Jessica Pratt Review
Listening closely to a new Jessica Pratt song feels like watching a spider build a web. She works delicately and swiftly, impervious to the world around her, with an internal logic that becomes clearer after you’ve seen the full picture. “This Time Around” is the lead track from Quiet Signs, the California songwriter’s first album in four years. At first, its simplicity alone is arresting. On an ancient-sounding acoustic guitar, she seesaws between two chords, her voice navigating almost unintelligibly. The melody, hushed and familiar, might remind you of a Tropicalia version of a Christmas song, or a ’60s jukebox standard playing in a beach town diner during the off-season.
Soon, things get darker. As usual, Pratt’s lyrics are less about offering narrative than tonal bullet points, like shorthand notes from a dream. More reminiscent of Cocteau Twins than the psychedelic, British folkisms of 2015’s On Your Own Love Again, there’s a greater sense of darkness and mystery. In her high, flute-like voice, Pratt sings about regret (“All upon her face were the lost and strange years”) as her language turns biblical (“Hallowed be thy name”) and eventually wordless. When a lone synth enters, it seems to remind Pratt that she’s not alone, urging softly that someone is listening. “It makes me want to cry,” she sighs in response. The feeling is mutual.