In 2015, I described Natalie Prass’ self-titled debut as “everything I love about music. It’s music you can dance to, and music you can cry to.” Since then, she’s actually recorded two records, scrapped one, and released her proper sophomore record, The Future and the Past, on June 1st via ATO Records. According to an interview with Consequence of Sound, Prass had an album completed in 2016, but scrapped it in response to things happening in the world. She wanted to make a statement, and a “neutral” album wouldn’t do. Instead, she wanted to craft something relevant and add her voice to the conversation.
The Future and The Past is an incredibly fitting title. It feels like a true throwback, much like her debut. Musically, she draws influence from all different styles – soul, funk, disco, and even a bit of ’80s radio rock. Lyrically, it’s current, reflecting on the political climate and how to address the chaos and uncertainty. The album might be retro in its sound, but it’s timely and relevant in its message.
The funky “Oh My” kicks off the album with aplomb. It’s such an awesome opener, setting the tone for the whole record in knockout fashion. Immediately, Prass finds that meaning she was searching for, singing: “Seems like everyday we’re losing. When we choose to read the news, oh my. Psychedelic confusion, mass illusion. Are we losing our minds?”. Prass follows that up with what should be a summer jam for anyone whose ears it graces, the immensely danceable “Short Court Style”.
“Sisters” is perhaps Prass’ loudest statement on the album. It’s a song that should be a feminist anthem. It’s about women looking after each other and making a better world for women in general. The last verse on “Sisters” packs the biggest punch, though, with Prass soulfully singing:
“One time for our girls at school
Who can’t get ahead no matter what they do.
And when they grow up and try to work.
Oh no, but they ain’t nothin’ but the shorter skirt.
There are also some really stunning ballads on The Future and the Past. “Lost” is a gorgeous track. Prass’ vocal delivery is entwined with emotion, as it’s supported by a light layer of drums, strings and harmonies. As it builds towards the end, it becomes a monster and is one of the record’s best tracks. “Ship Go Down” is another defiant statement from Prass, featuring guitars cutting through like a ship’s horn. The most stunning number, however, is “Far From You”, which references the Carpenter’s “Close To You”, and the influence Karen Carpenter had on Natalie Prass.
There are also some other really great jams, such as the groovy “The Fire” and the throbbing “Hot For The Mountain”. Prass, meanwhile, goes really old school on “Never Too Late”, which was co-produced by Billy Joel, Elton John, and Leonard Cohen collaborator Steve Lindsey. The record closes with a funk attack in “Ain’t Nobody”, wrapping up The Future and the Past with a dance fest. The choice of a euphoric song reflects the quiet optimism that rings through parts of the record, specifically that the worst has passed and the best is still to come.
On The Future and the Past, Prass has made a loud, bold statement. It’s clear that she succeeded in making a relevant, meaningful record. It can’t be an easy decision to scrap a record, considering the work that goes into making a record. It makes her statements even louder. Prass has created one of the year’s best records without compromising her feelings, and that’s totally badass.
Check out some photos from the The Future and the Past record release shows in Brooklyn and Philly with Angelica Garcia this past weekend below:
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