Natalie Prass – Natalie Prass

If I told you that Natalie Prass’ debut had been sitting in a record label’s vault, you’d think that it languished there for decades. ‘Never Over You’ is of a piece with early ‘70s singer-songwriters like Randy Newman or Harry Nilsson, while the warm cushion of horns and this-side-of-chintzy string arrangement recall Burt Bacharach’s work with Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield.

It’s something of a surprise, then, that the album is just three years old. Recorded in 2012 and released at the beginning of this year, it calls back to a very different era of music-making, and does a superb job of recreating the feel of that era without playing dress ups. Prass keeps the nostalgia to a minimum, producing an album that is sublimely tasteful and sophisticated; a contemporary of Bacharach and David rather than an imitator.

Working in that range makes for some tough comparisons, though, and while the timbre of the record is perfectly on-point, the songwriting isn’t quite to the same standard. At the risk of damning with faint praise, the songs are uniformly nice, without managing the precision crafting of the genre’s heavyweights. Prass’s winsome coo is a beautiful instrument, and the way her melodies dance and soar can be sublime, but the lyrics fall just a little short of the level that everything else on the record achieves effortlessly. That’s a small complaint, though, and hardly a concern when everything else about this album is this delightful.

Something to say?