The Future And The Past
I so loved Natalie Prass’ 2015 self-titled debut. Strong songs, a great voice, clever – quirky – arrangements, but this sense of tradition and adhering to it, conventional song structures; a tremendous collaboration between her and friend, producer and multi-instrumentalist, Matthew E. White.
For The Future And The Past – an album that seems, ultimately, to reflect the very present – it’s more of the same but very different. Here we have yacht rock textures (Never Too Late) and playing that is reminiscent of Hall & Oates, Steely Dan and the current-day version, Vulfpeck. The singing is sometimes reminiscent of Vanessa Paradis, the full-colour palette, the ideas bursting, well that reminds me of Kimbra, but this is so much smoother and clearer, cleaner, less scattershot. Prass makes pop records in the way that Elvis Costello does – you can hear and feel the wider listening that has informed it all.
There’s an 11pm funk-lite, show’s just getting warmed up feel to opener, Oh My. The sunny day hustle of Short Court Style is all at once a Prince deep cut, a reminder of Janet Jackson at her infectious best and something far cleverer, almost clinical; you can see the building blocks of the song, layer by layer it’s built.
The Fire has hints of the mature pop sound Norah Jones got to before the record label wrestled her back toward making blander “jazz/ish” plod-balladry.
Both it and the two-minute Lost show bravery and economy, the songs contain so much in such a short space. Real yearning, huge emotion. Joan as Police Woman seems another touchstone here.
But deep into the album we find the centrepiece, Sisters. It’s as much a call to arms – as sophisticated and charming too – as the material on Tracey Thorn’s Record (one of the killer albums of this year). Here Prass’ voice slinks over a late-night hip-hop/R’n’B feel; the backing vocalists providing a chant that propels the song. It’s empowerment and soulfulness all at once, a plea to change the plan, to save the planet, it’s personal and it’s politics and it’s – still, in spite of and because of all that – a fucking good pop song.
We need more fucking good pop songs. Always. We need more albums like this, more artists like Natalie Prass. The Future and The Past has been an album that’s been on my mind (and my turntable too) across the last few months. It’s embedding itself. One of the records of the year for sure.
You can support Off The Tracks via PressPatron