Natalie Prass
Natalie Prass


3.0
good

Review

by Ditto USER (15 Reviews)
February 2nd, 2015 | 18 replies


Release Date: 2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Marshmallows are nobody's favorite food

On Spotify, Natalie Prass made the “Soul Sisters” playlist, a short 12 song affair borrowing from both great and obscure R&B singers. With this in mind, the influence of the soul/R&B/blues sound on this album is quite apparent to me. The song structure, the mournful lyrics and delivery, the instrumentation and build-up on the many of the tracks such as "Reprise", “My Baby Don’t Understand Me” or “Why Don’t You Believe Me” all echo classic soul music (in a distinctly white girl way). But as a big Diana Ross fan, I notice more striking similarity between Natalie and Diana. Somewhere past the sweeping vocal power of Diana Ross are quieter, almost spoken word, moments of introspection. The subdued sections on Diana’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and Natalie’s “Reprise” sound like close musical relatives. While I’m sure that this by no means the only example, it exemplifies the comparison I’m trying to draw.

When I first made the connection, the influences this album worships become more and more evident. Prass draws heavily from them: I get strong whiffs of artists like Diana Ross/The Supremes, Etta James and most notably Carole King (among others). These strong inclinations cut both ways. The yearning, the graceful sorrow and subtle pacing/inflection of lovesickness/heartache, which is arguably best presented in this R&B format, is faithfully replicated in Prass’ music. The melodies float peacefully like a jellyfish balloon floating into the sky and the vocals are soft, warming, thoughtful, and thoroughly pleasant as the memory of these songs is refreshing in today’s smash and grab musical climate. However, the album is decidedly toothless, as there’s really nothing to make it unique or memorable. I would say there’s some modern white girl spin on it, but almost nothing stylistically that moves a modicum away from something readily established. If you’re going to emulate such revered artists without something distinguishing, ironically, the flatness of the music is going to stand out. The songwriting is nothing noteworthy, the vocal delivery never reaches beyond whispery exasperation and instrumentation, while diverse, don’t provide enough a relief.

That being said, the good, bread and butter elements of Prass are embodied on “Bird of Prey” with it’s catchy, bouncy sweetness and harmless panpiped (?) melodies. However, I think the most potential comes where the crumbs of individuality and vocal passion can be sparsely found. Tracks like “Violently” and “Why Don’t You Believe in Me?” are competent enough and are distinct enough to stand out among the discography but are crying just for that extra dose of something to make them memorable. To this effect, maybe borrowing from the greats and increasing the intensity to some kind of crescendo wouldn't be out of place or unwelcome. In this vein, I think “My Baby Don’t Understand Me” is the strongest fare, as Prass’ delicate beauty blends with energetic warbling (relative to the rest at least), accompanied with varied and appropriate supporting instrumentation combining into something resembling a fulfilling track.

However, not every track is so innocent or beyond reproach leveled at the lack of originality. In fact, the songs which sound the worst are the ones that sound somewhat different: namely, “Christy” and the final track “It Is You”. Both tracks sound like they’re stolen from some kind of scrapped Disney soundtrack about a girl mouse falling in love. The entirety of “Christy” is squeaked in high pitch timbres (which is not a trait that becomes endearing) and becomes the iceberg that sinks the entire track; complete with violins and harps sadly lamenting away in the background. But by far the most headscratching moment is the final track “It Is You”: a syrupy animated mouse soliloquy of a song which caused my ears great discomfort. Not only is it a comical change of pace after the perfectly adequate ending track, “Reprise”, but it is utterly saccharine and insipid in every way. It is like being locked in Guantanamo Bay with the Frozen soundtrack being blasted in your face every waking moment. An utterly baffling choice for an ending song, one which will leave a bad aftertaste in all but the most deaf or infantile of listeners.

All in all, this album is to me like a marshmallow. White, jet puffed sweetness which is all well and good if someone brings them to a campfire, but on reflection, they’re pretty bland and instantly forgettable (although maybe better if you had some other things to make s'mores with). Though harmless and inoffensive; let’s face it, nobody ever had a craving for plain marshmallows.



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user ratings (84)
3.4
great
other reviews of this album
Pangea (3.5)
A solid, albeit boring debut from a talented singer-songwiter....

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Comments:Add a Comment 
AliW1993
February 2nd 2015


7511 Comments


Nice review, pos'd.

I like this record. but I agree with some of your criticisms. The Disney tag seems to have been floated around quite a lot, and while I love the arrangements a lot of the actual songs aren't that memorable.

That said, I absolutely adore 'My Love Don't Understand Me.' Probably my favourite song of the year thus far.

Pangea
February 2nd 2015


5451 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Great review, pos'd. I'm actually working on one for this album as well. But it's good to see you wrote this, because I'm not sure how good (or bad)mine will be

Digging: Akhlys - Melinoe

Ditto
February 2nd 2015


10 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks. I try not to look at any other reviews before I write. I don't want to taint my opinion plus it has the added bonus of making me feel unique in my observations. I mean until someone tells me I'm not..



But yeah in this case it's not really that much of a stretch. It's just those two songs really, not the whole thing. I do like it as a whole, it's good, if a bit derivative/unmemorable.

Gyromania
February 2nd 2015


31361 Comments


yeah great review.

just saw this on pitchfork. will prob give it a try

Digging: Biosphere - Dropsonde [Reissue]

klap
Staff Reviewer
February 2nd 2015


12343 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

concurred

Tunaboy45
February 2nd 2015


17252 Comments


yeah great review, pos

bluesparrow
February 2nd 2015


65 Comments


neg coz i'm a big fan of plain marshmallows and i dont appreciate you dissing them

SowingSeason
Moderator
February 3rd 2015


36501 Comments


This got incredible reviews across most sites but even though I think it is "nice", it's still incredibly
boring.

Digging: Slaughter Beach, Dog - At The Moonbase

wtferrothorn
February 3rd 2015


5849 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Gotta agree with Ali. While the instrumentation is great and her voice is like honey, there weren't that many memorable moments.

RadicalEd
February 3rd 2015


9546 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Boring as fuck agreed. Matthew E. White's fingerprints are all over this, and it sound very much like his

album but with another singer.



It's all pleasant and i guess technically you can't fault anyone involved, but i just fell asleep listening

to it.



Good review, keep it up.

Shiranui
February 3rd 2015


743 Comments


Don't know if should get into this, after Kelis, i could need some good R&B again. Prolly will do anyway.

Sepstrup
February 5th 2015


1567 Comments


Great review. I agree with basically all your points, although I think I like the stand-outs (especially My Baby Don't Understand Me, which is fantastic) more than you do.

SgtShock
February 5th 2015


910 Comments


Some very well-written points/metaphors in this review. Pos'd!

InfamousGrouse
February 7th 2015


4349 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I mean I'm only three songs into this but I'm surprised at the generally low ratings

AmericanFlagAsh
May 28th 2015


10017 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The first two songs are pretty good though

This album just lacks uniqueness tbh

It's pretty boring

Digging: Maggie Rogers - Notes From The Archive: Recordings 2011-2016

theBoneyKing
December 5th 2015


19750 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I love this to be honest. I guess I can see how some find this boring but it's so pretty and even sexy in parts. "It Is You" is really cheesy and not even bad for what it is, and I enjoy all the rest of the songs. "Violently", "My Baby Don't Understand Me" and "Bird of Prey" are fantastic.

Pangea
December 6th 2015


5451 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I don't like violently it's very boring. I do enjoy most of the album although it grew of my pretty hard

theBoneyKing
March 11th 2018


19750 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Her recent single indicates her new album will be pretty different from this, hopefully it’ll garner a more positive reception than this one had.



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