The self-titled debut album from Natalie Prass is the second impressive offering of the year to come from the Spacebomb studio, following hot on the heels of stable-master Matthew E White’s excellent Fresh Blood.
Like that record, Prass makes adept use of the Spacebomb house band, but to slightly different effect here. While White’s album is all about R&B and soul, Prass uses the orchestrations to recreate the feel of seventies’ singer/songwriters such as Carole King and Joni Mitchell, with some throwbacks to sixties pop. It’s a very personal affair; with romantic themes and a firm focus on heartbreak, the strings are used to particularly moving effect, as they interplay with brass and woodwind.
Along with a polished and poignant set of songs, Prass’ great asset is her fresh, affecting voice that has a touch Kate Bush or Tori Amos, while channelling those great songstresses of the seventies. It’s a beautiful sound that carries just enough vulnerability to perfectly convey the material.
Like those great Motown songs, Prass makes the anguish of relationships sound so sweet, particularly in the beautiful opener “My Baby Don’t Understand Me Anymore” and the catchy, upbeat “Bird of Prey” that follows. “Your Fool” gets into sixties’ girl group territory; it’s very easy to be seduced by the aesthetic of the music here and forget that Prass is actually singing about the pain of infidelity. “Why Don’t You Believe in Me” is a slow funk number that continues to mine the theme of relationships in demise.
After such an the enthralling opening to the record, it’s a little more uneven in the second half, but this is only a minor detraction and does little to dent the album’s overall appeal. This is an impressive debut from a talented performer, whose collaboration with Spacebomb has produced striking results.
We wait with anticipation to see what gems this emerging label might produce next.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor