A debut album is a tricky hurdle for upcoming artists to pass. With nothing to go on except some singles and possibly some live shows, it acts as a real first impression for anyone listening to it. This is especially true for someone who both fits into the over-saturated niche of the female singer-songwriter, yet actively tries to avoid falling into stereotypes, such as Natalie Prass. The question is, what kind of impression is left by her self-titled debut album?
Natalie Prass is a simple album, made up entirely of low-key songs that sit somewhere between the genres of jazz and soul. Strings and horns are featured throughout, punctuating the simple arrangements that would otherwise consist mostly on bass, drums and piano. Plenty of albums following this formula tend to fail, which isn’t a good sign.
It’s to the credit of Natalie and her production team at her record label Spacebomb that this isn’t one of those cases. While Natalie doesn’t come off as the most technically skilled singer, her voice has an innocence and charm to it that makes it stand out. Her pleasant voice makes the songs far more endearing than an increasingly technical singer’s would, fitting in perfectly with lyrics relating to heartbreak, such as in Christy—Oh, why does it have to be/That she can take the hand of anyone she meets?/Still, the only one she sees belongs to me/Oh, Christy—which grows to be a recurring theme throughout the album.
The highlight of the album is the sudden shift in sound for the closing track, It Is You. The music goes from soulful and jazzy to something straight out of a Disney movie. It utilizes a full-on waltz style driven solely by a full string arrangement and back-up horns until building with the help of cinematic drums before the song reaches its end, with her voice sounding at its best with this nostalgic arrangement. With the quality of the lyrics to top it off, the song truly shines with a melancholy almost unfit for the beauty of the arrangement—Do my best on my own/To see the beauty abound/Glass of wine on my desk/When you’re not around/I’ve learned that there’s a key/Inside and only one will do/It is you.
If you think of albums as a first impression, then Natalie Prass was definitely a strong one. The beautiful string and horn arrangements punctuate the songs, giving a special quality to the songs, with her voice conveying all the emotion of the lyrics perfectly. When it comes to standing out from the singer-songwriter crowd, this can easily be deemed as a success. Natalie Prass is definitely someone to watch out for in the future.