#26. Natalie Prass: Natalie Prass

On her eponymous debut album, Natalie Prass establishes herself as not only a successful singer but also a seasoned composer. Both of these talents stand out on Natalie Prass, which consists of some of the more luscious chamber pop that 2015 had to offer. Refreshingly, even though she leans heavily on chamber instrumentation in her songwriting, her arrangements don’t possess any of the kitsch that's sometimes woven into the genre.

The musical arrangements are compositionally advanced and skillfully implement chamber music instrumentation. Guitars often play supporting roles to muted trumpets, saxophones, clarinets, flutes, strings—all of which play unique rolls on tracks like opener “My Baby Don’t Understand Me.” Prass separates herself from much other baroque pop through her instruments’ heightened level of independence. The different groups of instruments sometimes don’t play in unison, or even in harmony; instead, each section functions as a singular entity building towards one common goal. Towards the end of the track, Prass repeats the phrase “our love is a long goodbye” in her delicate falsetto as the orchestration rises, swells, and rises again beneath her as if the recording is breathing and coming to life.

“Violently” is the peak of her compositional talent. It begins as a quiet piano- and guitar-assisted ballad, and as new instruments are gradually layered atop one another, it blossoms into a gorgeous record. Prass drops the album’s theme of heartbreak to paint an endearing portrait of budding love as she sings “I just want to know you violently / I’ve had enough of talking politely.”

At times the instrumental arrangements completely take over the music, such as with the Brazilian arco strings of “Christy.” But Prass isn’t only focused on the chamber arrangements. She can lay down an impressive groove for a chamber pop artist, as on “Why Don’t You Believe in Me” and “Bird of Prey.” The latter record is an amalgam of her lush instrumentation, pristine falsetto, and an insatiable bounce. It’s a great demonstration of her compositional dexterity, something that is usually not this refined on a debut album. The most exciting part of Natalie Prass might not even be its music, but rather the potential of its star.