It’s easy to fix San Francisco singer-songwriter Jessica Pratt with trendy, obscure labels. Lo-fi/garage-rock vet Tim Presley launched Birth Records just to release the then-5-year-old songs on Pratt’s acclaimed eponymous 2012 debut. Her voice’s delicate, nasal quaver brings to mind Joanna Newsom’s so-called freak-folk and forgotten acid-folkie Linda Perhacs (both, not coincidentally, hail from San Francisco as well). But On Your Own Love Again, Pratt’s exquisite second LP, both reinforces the 27-year-old’s place in the folk tradition and sets her apart as an exceptional songwriter who is a master of nuance and minutiae.
Pratt’s signature sibilance is again enhanced by home-grown tape hiss, but this album is in sharper focus than her debut, as though dust has been wiped from the windows. Her lyrics feel like they’re whispered directly into the ear; her guitar playing (the only accompaniment aside from the occasional flute) is even more meticulous.
But the true leap is in the set’s many quietly arresting moments: the hint of clavinet on “Moon Dude,” or her voice distorting as it suddenly dips low and husky on “Jacquelyn in the Background.” One of the most mesmerizing is during “Game That I Play,” when Pratt’s elliptical finger-picking cuts like glinting sunlight as she sings, “People’s faces blend together like a watercolor you can’t remember.” She may be a lesser-known figure in the folk world — for now — but Pratt is carving her own beautifully intimate space within it.