Natalie Prass was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up in Richmond, Virginia. She went to Berklee College of Music and served as a keyboardist in Jenny Lewis’ backing band. Prass signed with Matthew E. White’s Spacebomb Records and released her debut album in 2015.
Prass’ career is only two records old, but her sophistipop is already impressive. Her debut record sometimes submerges Prass’ playful voice under orchestrations. Her second record, however, is a tour de force with its upbeat, jazz-inflected arrangements. Prass opened for Kacey Musgraves‘ 2019 tour but is still a relative unknown despite critical acclaim.
Natalie Prass Album Reviews
Natalie Prass | The Future and the Past
Natalie Prass’ debut is a good record with strong songs, but coming to it after her sophomore album it suffers in comparison. The orchestration is musically rich, harking back to an earlier era when record labels would splash out on lavish arrangements. Sometimes it’s reminiscent of Dusty Springfield’s 1960s work. But at the same time, Prass’ vocals aren’t as powerful as Springfield’s and she sometimes sounds overwhelmed by the strings.
The most effective track is the closer ‘It Is You’ – it shows that Prass could pursue a career voicing Disney princesses if her recording career doesn’t work out. The uptempo ‘Fool’ anticipates the direction Prass would go on with her next project, and the orchestration is creative, adding hooks to the song. Songs like ‘Christy’ are less compelling, with the orchestration domineering Prass’ vocal and songwriting.
Natalie Prass already showcases a lot of musicality, but it would be better served by her next record.
The Future and the Past
Like her debut, Prass’ second album also has rich arrangements. Unlike the big orchestrations on her debut, here she’s often working with upbeat pop and soul arrangements. She’s spectacularly good at them, utilising her jazz piano chops. Prass had an entirely different album written, but felt unable to record it in the wake of Donald Trump’s 2016 election. The exterior of The Future and The Past is playful and joyful, but the lyrics are often serious. “We gotta change the plan/Come on nasty women” is clearly political, but it’s easy to miss with everything that’s happening musically.
‘Sisters’ is just one of the funky songs where Prass excels – there’s the opening one-two punch of ‘Oh My’ and ‘Short Court Style’, while ‘Ain’t Nobody’ provides a closing jolt of energy after the more contemplative second side. There’s a clear debt to the 1970s on the gentler songs – ‘Far From You’ has a Carpenters reference with “Tell me why do birds, do they suddenly disappear?”, while ‘Never Too Late’ is part yacht rock and part confessional singer-songwriter.
The Future and The Past is an impressive sophomore album, Prass’s musical gifts are suited to these funky soul/pop songs.
Best Natalie Prass Songs
Short Court Style
It is You
Hot For The Mountain
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Aphoristic Album Reviews is almost entirely written by one person.
Graham Fyfe is probably the only music blogger to appreciate both Neil Diamond and Ariana Grande. Based in Fleet Street (New Zealand), he's been writing this blog since around 2000. Aphoristic Album Reviews features reviews and blog posts across a growing spectrum of popular music.
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