Jessica Pratt is not a loud performer. She does not have to be. In a club of a few hundred, even the bar staff are known to go quiet while she’s on stage. Her third album, Quiet Signs, feels like a distillation of this power. The album leads off with “Opening Night,” a nod to Gena Rowlands’ harrowing, brilliant performance in the John Cassavetes film of the same name. It’s also an emblem of where this spare, mysterious collection of songs falls in the course of Pratt’s career.
“On some level I considered an audience while making the last record (2015’s On Your Own Love Again),” she writes, “But my creative world was still very private then and I analyzed the process less. This was the first time I approached writing with the idea of a cohesive record in mind.”
After a collection of demos and early studio recordings (Jessica Pratt, Birth Records, 2012) earned her a small, dedicated audience, Pratt moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles and recorded her first intentional album in her bedroom in a matter of months. That album, On Your Own Love Again (Drag City, 2015), would bring her around the world many times, leading many to fall under the spell of Jessica Pratt the performer, the songwriter, the singer with the heavy-lidded voice that feels alien and familiar at the same time.
Her first album fully recorded in a professional studio setting, Quiet Signs finds Pratt’s songwriting and accompanying guitar work refined — more distinct and direct. Songs like “Fare Thee Well” and “Poly Blue” retain glimmers of OYOLA‘s hazy day afternoon spells, yet delicate flute, strings sustained by organ arrangements, and rehearsal room piano now gesture towards the lush chamber pop and longing of The Left Banke. On the album’s first single, “This Time Around,” Pratt hits on a profound, late-night clarity over just a couple of deep chords, evoking Caetano Veloso‘s casual seaside brilliance. And before the curtain drops on Quiet Signs, Pratt provides a show-stopping closer, “Aeroplane.”
The album was written in Los Angeles and recorded at Gary’s Electric in Brooklyn, NY over 2017 and 2018. It was co-produced by Al Carlson. He plays flute, organ and piano on some songs. Matt McDermott also played piano and string synthesizer.
In the world of Quiet Signs, the black of night usually represents fear, despair, resignation; finally at home descending towards the illuminated city, she sings over black leather drone and tambourine shuffle with a newfound resolve. Quiet Signs is the journey of an artist emerging from the darkened wings, growing comfortable as a solitary figure on a sprawling stage.