Essential New Music: Jessica Pratt’s “Quiet Signs”

Jessica Pratt has a thing for irreducible essences. Quiet Signs, her third LP, barely qualifies as a long player since it clocks in at around 28 minutes. But every sound, every word, every empty space contributes to its effect. The arrangements are spare, with just a keyboard or flute posing a harmony or countermelody to complement Pratt’s acoustic guitar. They serve as a backdrop for her supple voice, which navigates between cloudy heights and shadowy lows without drawing attention to its own mobility.

The gaps within Pratt’s words are even harder to suss out, jumping from first love to loss within a phrase without ever drawing the map of how she got there. This works to their benefit, since it spares the listener the enforced intimacy that burdens so many songs written about relationships in the 21st century. Pratt’s songs are mysterious without drawing attention to their mystery, which ensures that they’ll stick longer in your mind.

—Bill Meyer