Artist: Natalie Prass
Title: Natalie Prass album
Release Date: 26 January 2015
Label: Spacebomb / Caroline International
Cat Number: SB006
Spacebomb is proud to share the vibrant, effortless vision of 28-year-old Nashville singer Natalie Prass. Forged in collaboration between artist and community, Natalie’s self-titled debut (due out 26 January 2015) arrives fully-formed with an incredibly assured, rich and deeply soulful sound – one built upon her tender yet golden voice and the lightning-in-a-bottle chemistry she shares with the Spacebomb collective.
Born in Cleveland, Natalie entered the teenage slipstream back on the east coast, past the haunted houses, surf shops, and burger joints of Virginia Beach; a mid-tier, rough-around-the-edges resort town. After a brief stint in the cold throws of Boston’s prestigious music school Berklee, she moved out to Nashville where she has spent the last few years honing her craft, charming audiences; both in her own right supporting the likes of Angel Olsen and on tour as part of Jenny Lewis‘s band.
When the time came to realise her first full length, Natalie returned to those Virginia sands to work with Spacebomb and one time high-school rock band mate Matthew E. White (whose own album Big Inner was praised to the rafters back in 2013). And so – soaked with the same sweet perspiration and studio spirit that ran through Memphis, New Orleans and Muscle Shoals – Spacebomb’s incredibly talented arrangers and in-house musicians began spinning the history of pop into a glowing new tapestry.
The sheer quality of her voice – capable of soaring highs and sweeping lows; vulnerable one minute, fiery and muscular the next – and songwriting gave those collaborators a freedom to push themselves and their craft to the limit. Trey Pollard’s gorgeous, technicolor strings rise from the coastal plain; White’s muscular horn signatures driving and complicating the dance; the peripatetic, delicious piano of Daniel Clarke (k.d. lang, Ryan Adams); everything locked down to the rhythm section of Cameron Ralston whilst Pinson Chanselle rides a Curtom indebted groove.
Nourished by reverence for past eras of big band and jazz, the flutter of Cole Porter, the poise of Philly soul orchestras and infused with the crisp detail of late 70’s/early 80’s R&B; Natalie Prass is a unassuming, soul-pop triumph from the off.
Album opener ‘My Baby Don’t Understand Me’ tells you almost everything you need to know about what is to follow: Unapologetically romantic lyrics swell as the horns sashay into fanfare, the emotional heft and arrangements get impossibly larger but never lose their groove. ‘Bird of Prey’ continues this thread; its silky propulsive beat balancing an infectious hook with calmly observed feelings, as flutes dive and weave between muted horns and rolling piano keys.
By the album’s third track ‘Your Fool’ you can almost trace the stages of Natalie’s rejection; her voice shot through by strength, sinew and just a hint of transient grit – each inflection planned to cut into the deep soulful bass lines and resilient drums. ‘Your Fool’ is revisited later with added handclaps and horn stabs for album closer ‘Reprise’, which doffs its cap towards ‘By The Time I Get To Phoenix’ – Natalie even played in front of a poster of Isaac Hayes at Nashville’s storied Ryman Theatre.
Funky horns, a gutsy – distinctly Matthew E. White – guitar line and murmuring flutes in ‘Why Don’t You Believe In Me’ connect with the song’s wry internal monologue as needles of feedback penetrate the mix in counterpoint to the controlled elegance. The ghost of Harry Nilsson shows up in a sentimental mood to close the album with the graceful ‘It Is You’; Natalie channelling his memory through colourful fields of sound and Pollard distilling the strings to their highest intoxicating proof before it all ends – as it began – with a moment of quiet dissonance.
Natalie Prass is an exercise in perfectly balanced compositions – slowly building tension and release whilst laying out the bittersweet perversities and pleasures of love in studied contrast. It’s modern and classic, gorgeous and resonant, infectious and utterly engaging. Natalie is a beguiling performer and cunning pop composer whose old-soul energy marks her out as one for the moment and one for the ages.