ALBUM REVIEW: Natalie Prass makes crossing genres look easy on ‘The Future and The Past’

Natalie Prass Moroccan 2018 mainbar

Natalie Prass first made her splash with her folk-driven self-titled full-length debut. She opened tours for Ryan Adams in support of that album, but her latest effort suggests she could pull of opening for Bruno Mars.

The Future And The Past is a gem of an R&B record that seems to take influence from the mid-’90s era Janet Jackson along with even more retro acts like Stevie Wonder. Prass said the record was complete and then the election happened, making her scrap the record and start anew.

You can read the politics between the lines on the album’s opening track “Oh My”. “I can’t believe the things I hear, oh what is truth and what is fear?” is like the 2018 answer to the Marvin Gaye classic “What’s Going On”.

“Short Court Style” is the next track and was the album’s sensible first single. It best introduces the new-sound Prass, with lush synths and a groovy bass line fluttering behind Prass’ tender vocals. The way she closes the song in the final minute is the most Janet-sounding the record gets, with the “na-na-na” and “oohs” hitting just the right note.

“The Fire” features some very late ’80s early ’90s synth sounds. The “into the fire, oh we go” chorus harmony sounds well-suited for HAIM, melding those R&B and ’90s Wilson Phillips pop sounds together.

The album mixes speeds wonderfully, alternating between up-tempo numbers like “The Fire” and more ballad-style tunes like “Hot for the Mountain”. It’s a calm protest song about maintaining your resolve and knowing you’re not alone. The “So, will you stand up and be counted?” bar is all you need to drop on your friends that complain about politics but don’t vote.

“Lost” is the song that would’ve felt most at home on Prass’ debut record a few years ago. It straddles that folk and R&B line so wonderfully. It’s powerful chorus would score this Happy Gilmore scene if the movie came out in 2018.

“Sisters” was the second single and and inclusive feminist anthem. Even the piano riff in the chorus sounds in unison with the general feeling behind the song. It’s a wonderful gospel fight song.

The song “Ship Go Down” might be my favorite deep cut from the record. It’s a quintessential psych jazz Motown get stoned jam. Prass’ fast-paced singing is at odds with the relaxed vibe of the production until the two meet in the middle on the mesmerizing chorus.

The Karen Carpenter tribute “Far From You” is so touching that it sounds fit to be the score for a moving moment from a Disney film. It’s a soft ballad that feels most in touch with being played on vinyl.

The album finishes with “Ain’t Nobody”, more in line with the R&B vibes that permeate the record. It’s already been added to my summer jams playlist.

Natalie Prass took a big risk deviating from what brought her critical acclaim with her debut, and it’s paid off big time. She has crossover appeal, and I hope those who book R&B-driven festivals give her serious consideration. She’s sure to make fans of anyone who considers themselves loyal to the genre.

Buy The Future And The Past via ATO Records today. Catch Natalie Prass at the Troubadour on September 29!

Photos by Danielle Gornbein

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