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All Donna-Claire does is write books and play board games with her wife.

My mother learned to read fortunes while vacationing as a teen on the Baltic Sea. By the time I was old enough to remember my nightmares, she told me it was imperative to write them down to keep them from coming true. And if you dream of losing your teeth, death is coming. We are estranged now, but that message has stayed with me. The night Jessica Pratt’s fourth album, Here in the Pitch, came out, I dreamt my teeth turned to dust. I woke up and moved my tongue over my bottom right crown, a fix I needed after cleanly cracking a tooth in my sleep from the stress of my previous job. Everything was in place.

Our story begins the way most of my Friday mornings do: at 5 a.m. after another recurring nightmare despite the two prescribed Clonidine. We are situated in early May, and old Hollywood is alive again as I press play on “Life Is,” the opening tune on Pratt’s latest record. The wistful notes of overcoming insecurity and falling in love bubble up. Shreds of folksy melodies spar with crushing drums. The yearning “Better Hate” immediately follows and claws at my second skin. The abstractions in its chorus transform the brutal opening line, “What a sad case, I’m nobody’s fool,” into a seismic disturbance.

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Much of Here in the Pitch follows this course: wrestling with time and finality, be it last laughs or the potential of new beginnings. It’s a softspoken album in appearance alone. The crashing production from the dawn sessions underscores Pratt’s own preoccupation with death and mystery. I wonder if her teeth have ever shattered.

“I am a person who thinks about death a lot,” Pratt told Spin. “Not even in a morbid way but more around trying to go back to imagining the layers of humanity that have existed before us…and will come after us.”

As a gilded songbird of Los Angeles lore, Jessica Pratt’s singular style weaves its own history. From her self-titled record to 2019’s breakthrough, Quiet Signs, Pratt riffed on the guts of Americana with precision. Some regional music transports you to a particular intersection or dimly-lit haunt. Pratt achieves this, sure, but perhaps more impressively, her vocals pluck the listener out of their existence, strip away distractions, and allow them to feel wholly. Life on life’s terms. It’s like being on acid before the elevator drops.

So much of Pratt’s early work is rooted in the overwhelmingly human desire to share. She’s been performing live since 19. With her early albums born from sessions in her tiny Los Angeles bedroom, the insularity of her writing blooms outward thanks to a delicate soundbed. The audience has no choice but to cradle it. And while I’ve long thought it’s near impossible to really hear another person,, overcoming hundreds of layers of pretense, Pratt manages to revise my narrative. She appears deprogrammed, a prototype of the future of understanding. She is one of the only artists who deserves the word “ethereal” placed beside her name. Her music is built upon a decade of instinct, and it answers the question of, “What if the Beach Boys and Peggy Lee joined forces to create something alternately eeerie and anxious?”

By the late afternoon of Here in the Pitch’s release day, I’m in the garden sowing cucamelons and watering the huckleberry bush. This mess of dirt, vines, and twigs all rely on me as I do them. Here in the Pitch flows from my speaker. It’ll be my third listen of the day. As we get to “Get Your Head Out,” I am buzzing with the overwhelming validation of having my feelings reflected back to me in song. “I keep comin’ back to what I left behind,” Pratt sings and I think of my inability to let go and accept things as they are. Resolving that little wrinkle might just be the key to self-love.

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Jessica Pratt achieves compassion for the self through a strong economy of language. On “By Hook or By Crook” she sings, “A gesture left in summer’s mind / Autumn’s come to find,” and I read these 10 words as an ode to sowing your own seeds. She makes hard work sound rewarding. It pairs well with the previous track’s soft, “I want to be the sunlight of the century.” What Here in the Pitch skirts in tension, it pays out in being able to hold big feelings without reacting to them. It’s about how fluidity and patience are the biggest signs of maturity. She attempted this over and over again on 2015’s On Your Own Love Again, but songs like “Wrong Hand” and “I’ve Got a Feeling” saw Pratt throwing herself into a cigarette ash-caked heartbreak. It was her way of “fusing fantasy and reality,” perhaps because reality on its own was too much to bear. Nine years later, on Here in the Pitch, she is fully embedded in the present.

Meanwhile, I have dirt in my hair and faint cuts on my hands from weeding without gloves. These pricks are proof I am rooted in the present. All day I wonder what my powdered teeth are trying to tell me. Then, I walk over to the sunflower sprouts and see they’ve been dug up and discarded by the black squirrels who live in the neighboring tree. All types of grief set in—I should have protected the sprouts; I should have known this would happen. I cry, if you couldn’t guess, and tune out the music until the Here in the Pitch’s final line: “I’m gone with all the changes in my mind.”

Death is an unmasking. I won’t pretend it’s some sort of freedom. It terrifies me. I want to understand so I am not caught unawares. I look for signs of death coming in everything. I keep my garden alive to keep myself alive, and still, every night, I dream of loss. The weight and hollowness of something being gone, even if it is just a subconscious fiction, zombifies me. But on Here in the Pitch I hear hope laced in the gaps of unraveling Pratt fills. She uses love to her advantage. The tumult of youth is switched out for the wizened state of total acceptance. “And it’s the end of the dreams again,” Pratt sings and I believe her, teeth firmly rooted in my mouth.

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