In 1977, John Cassavetes released a film entitled “Opening Night,” about a broadway actress (played by Gena Rowlands) who faces doubt and inner turmoil while rehearsing for her upcoming play about a women who is unable to come to terms with the fact that she is aging.
Forty years later, Los Angeles singer-songwriter Jessica Pratt catches the film during a double-feature, and its themes of the struggles artists go through as they present their work to the world resonate deeply with her. “Sometimes when you see a film, especially an emotional, anguishing film like that, it can just simmer in your subconscious for a while,” Pratt told Rolling Stone, “It definitely did that for me.”
On Quiet Signs, her third album, Pratt immediately embodies this emotion, opening with subtle and full piano on a track of the same name as the Cassavetes film. The record could pass as the score for the picture, as it slows down time and captures the listener within its immersive aesthetic.
There’s a gorgeous, hypnotic quality to her music, as her gentle guitar compliments her surprising, yet calming voice, reminiscent of the nostalgic folk mystique singers such as Joni Mitchell, Nico, and Joan Baez (although Pratt has expressed not wanting to be pigeonholed into such comparisons).
“The nature of my music is really quiet and subtle, and that’s not something I try to engineer,” she told Pitchfork, “it just is that way.” On Quiet Signs, you can truly hear the authenticity of her music, as she wraps the listener in a peaceful serenity. She’s able to get across so much feeling in just twenty-eight minutes, and it’s odd how comforting an album so full of uncertainty and doubt can be. It’s a masterclass in ambience, and it displays the magic both a songwriter and a recording can create together.
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