By Kwase Lane, Staff Writer
Key tracks: “Fare Thee Well”, “Here My Love”, “Poly Blue”
On her third studio album, Quiet Signs, Jessica Pratt effortlessly blends tender acoustic guitar and eerily familiar vocals to form a beautiful sonic composition. The project feels as if it was plucked from the 1960s, but Pratt finds a way to infuse this already gentle style with an even deeper delicacy. Her ethereal vocals echo and envelop the listener and provide a serene bed of sound to lie upon. However, if her audience listens closely, they will be rewarded with the timeless knowledge her glassy voice holds.
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The mysterious lyrics of “Fare Thee Well” could mean any number of things, but the emotion and tone the piece conveys are unmistakable. A steady heartbeat-like guitar pulls listeners in and, at the same time, allows them to find relaxation in the repetition. Her voice sweeps over like the warm jets from a shower head and begins to pool with each line, deepening the auditory puddle. Pratt expertly captures a sense of unfamiliarity without making the song feel daunting or formidable. It’s like taking a nap on the grass at a local park, only waking up after the streetlights have brightened the greenery. You don’t usually end up in situations like this, but the recognizable setting finds a way to be soothing even during this bizarre circumstance.
The album continues with “Here My Love”. Although it is a simple song, its lyrics suggest a much deeper meaning. Pratt is singing for a lost lover, reflecting on past memories and ultimately settling on the fact that he still exists in her mind. Her vocals have a peculiar inquisitiveness to them, almost as if she’s not sure how she feels and is waiting on her audience to answer her somehow. The piece imbues the listener with the same hollowness it holds and you can feel her voice bouncing around inside of your chest with each word finding a different way to piece your heart and mend it as it leaves.
“Poly Blue” perfectly demonstrates the striking sense of nostalgia found in so many parts of this project. Jessica Pratt is telling the tale of a young man who is somewhat unlucky when it comes to matters of the heart. Although the song could not be from her perspective, Pratt tells the story like one who has lived it – or at least heard it repeated many times over. Even without picking her blurred voice apart, the piece still conveys a deep sadness from far in the past, and it’s one the subject wouldn’t part with no matter how much pain it causes them.
Quiet Signs is an enchanting storybook of an album. Pratt’s wispy vocals are difficult to decipher without lending them a close ear, but the project is only made better by the mysterious messages. It is supremely rewarding to listen to each piece again, only to have the emotions each song holds intensified by Pratt’s verse. The mix of unsettling wistfulness and serenity in her voice lend themselves nicely to the brief period of reminiscence one goes through before they drift off to sleep. Quiet Signs mirrors the fact that not every memory pulls one’s face into a smile or frown. It, just like your memories, is colored by the pain of wishing to return to the past and your thankfulness for having the experience.