Quiet Signs (City Slang/Inertia)
You can’t complain that LA-based Jessica Pratt hasn’t given you some warning about the content – or at least the tone – of her third album, not with that title.
The only loud thing about Quiet Signs is the click of your finger on a keyboard or phonepad hitting play. Pratt coos and whispers, the guitars are acoustic, the flute as prominent as any rhythmic instrument, and the air hangs lightly over everything like barely exhaled breath.
Speaking of which, even Pratt’s breathing sounds barely there, and the penultimate song, which reaches into the corners of late ‘60s French folk pop, dark skivvies and a discarded copy of Camus in the corner of the room, is called Silent Song.
You got the message yet? Quiet Signs is an album about reflecting and ruminating made to accompany, not distract from, reflection and rumination.
There’s an important corollary to this (only slightly exaggerated) description however: quietness and reflection shouldn’t have you assuming this album is sombre. In the very early Joni-meets-Claudine Longet, Poly Blue, and the punt-on-the-river Fare Thee Well, there’s a lightness that feels like a woman unencumbered. And Here My Love, in its rising piano chords and slight spring in her voice, brings everything to a summer’s sunset mood.
Even in the album’s closing Aeroplane (much more Alison Goldfrapp in rustic mode than Angus & Julia Stone, thankfully) and its opening, Satie-like piano instrumental, Opening Night, there’s a reminder that you can be wistful, slightly odd and yet open to the possibilities rather than worn down by the probabilities.
Along with all that is the interesting extra messaging in its 27-minute length, that there’s time to ponder, but no need to drag it out and end up in something too introspective and sombre.
In truth though, that inordinately short - for a full nine-track album – running time saves Quiet Signs from a potential problem. There’s not enough variety, nor enough melodic peaks to keep you here any longer than 27 minutes, and maybe only one outstanding song, the folding in and out of itself Crossing.
The album closes just as you’re starting to notice that pretty hasn’t turned into any track here piercing the skin, but before you start to feel that irritation which would cut away at the mood she’s created.
These are not entirely new issues with Pratt though, an artist who has promised to blossom into something special for a while. By your third album though, if this is a recurring thought in a listener, it may be a sign.