Tucked away in a long, thin shop at the back of St Nick’s Market in Bristol is one of the finest second hand record shops I’ve ever had the luck to visit. It is a place where one can find both hard to locate pressings from the Nineties and mint copies of Sixties relics. Wall displays tease and taunt with the quite staggeringly splendid wares. Want to see an original Nick Drake pressing? A mono ‘Revolver’? Original pressings of forgotten treasures recently dug up by Light In The Attic? All this and more have graced this particular store in recent months and John, who runs the whole shebang at Wanted Records, is very particular about the stock he gets in. Not for him battered discs with barely half a dozen plays left in them. Hold these discs up to the light and you will be more than pleasantly surprised. Add in the fact that these records are reasonably priced and soon you’ll be happy to take a punt on something simply because it looks good. Which is exactly how I could imagine having come across the self-titled debut by Jessica Pratt. Except, of course, I didn’t, for it is a new and very recent release. But the presentation, both in terms of packaging and audio production, speaks of a time long gone and had I pulled this out of the same box as a few Joni Mitchells and a touch of Karen Dalton, I wouldn’t have been surprised.
Yes, indeed, bold as this claim might be, this album would arguably not be out of place in such company. The black and white, textless cover, the frankly gorgeous back of the sleeve and the charming presence of a bit of gentle tape hiss throughout reveal a record which seems to have been frozen in time forty-two years ago. The truth is, I only purchased this album a few weeks before I set about finalising this list of albums of the year and I am, to a point, taking a wee punt in popping this as high up the pile of particularly splendid musical offerings of the past twelve months. I do this safe in the knowledge that it has lost none of its charm over the excessive number of plays it has received in a short space of time and is a very real contender for being one of those albums I mentioned just before I started counting down this list that end up neglected, only to rise in my affections. Well, balls to that and here goes. In with a bullet at 13 because it is utterly beguiling and if I change my mind I may have taken leave of my senses. Should that happen, please alert the authorities.
And what of the music I hear you ask, through gritted teeth and incredibly close to abandoning this almost stream of consciousness splurge of a review. Well, it has hints of those early Dalton tapes that have emerged in lieu of her having only recorded two studio albums, with delicately plucked acoustic guitar, occasionally background noises and that tiny bit of oh so utterly adorable creaking on the vocals. ‘Half Twain The Jesse’ should do the trick. Click the delightful artwork above and Spotify should allow you to undertake that particular pleasure.
As it goes, it was another record shop in Bristol that alerted me to this one. Adrian Dutt, Rise employee and man behind some of the finest gig posters you’ll see anytime soon, mentioned it to me in a tweet and implored me to seek it out. He was, of course, right. He also recently recommended Rachel Zeffira’s quite sublime ‘The Deserters’ which came out even later than this album and thus missed out on an almost certain placing in this list, if initial listens are anything to go by. He’s clearly a very wise man indeed. Enjoy either or both of these albums, why don’t you. If they do nothing for you, I’m not sure we can ever be friends.