Jessica Pratt: Here in the Pitch Album Review

May 2, 2024 - Music

To understand this mysterious Pratt song, one must submit to its dream logic. She’s one of the few songwriters who, I think, favors the verse over the chorus. There’s no release of tension or fulfillment of a promise when she arrives at something resembling a chorus. Instead, her choruses gently turn you around and lead you back to the verse, where Pratt’s vocal melodies gambol and cartwheel around the space. The timbre of her voice resembles a breathy saxophone, like a cool Paul Desmond bossa nova tune. It is reedy and precise, languid and surprisingly technical. No one could just sing the melody on the verse of “Get Your Head Out,” right? You can hear just how considered every note is, each sung with her own unique interpretation of American vowels.

One of my favorite moments in Pratt’s catalog is on the song “Jacquelyn in the Background,” from 2015’s On Your Own Love Again, where it sounds like she’s impossibly detuning her guitar as she’s playing it. This melting sound was an unsettling moment of trickery for an artist whose elemental rawness was part and parcel of her draw. There’s a more subtle use of post-production effects on the dizzyingly obtuse highlight “Empires Never Know,” a rare piano-led song that features some backmasking effect on the vocals. You only hear it for a few seconds, but it’s crucial. Like Cindy Lee’s recent hypnogogic Motown pop record, Diamond Jubilee, the way Here in the Pitch uses the studio to bend and abstract the instruments makes it sound more like a transmission than a recording. These albums feel beamed in from far away, or long ago, so that this imagined distance the music travels makes each song feel much larger and more important than if it were produced like a Tiny Desk concert.

“Empires Never Know” also becomes the closest thing to a title track when Pratt sings, “I never was what they called me in the dark”—if you take the “pitch” in the title to mean darkness and not black tar. The syntax of that line is typical of the Pratt song. She uses odd tenses and conditional grammar to comment on the past or presage the future. These lines emerge as riddles and half-thoughts: “I used to want for what your desolation hadn’t come by” or “I soon should know what remains” or “It’s only lasted for awhile.” Pratt’s narrator is constantly inquiring about emotional states, searching high and low for the right phrase to evoke a feeling that’s difficult to name. This temporal displacement and imagistic writing make Here in the Pitch feel vaporous at first, but it soon becomes its own transfixing language, a magnet that makes your internal compass go haywire.

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