Feb. 25, 2019 | Joshua Bote — Full disclosure: We here at NPR Music have decreed Natalie Prass something of a patron saint for roséwave — our groove-laden, pink drink-soaked soundtrack for the summer. So, when the Richmond, Va. artist arrived at the Tiny Desk, it was a cause for celebration, especially amid the January blues that seemed to permeate the NPR Music office. Decked out in matching, cobalt blue outfits (with a matching keyboard stand to boot), Prass and her backing band, comprised of Eric Slick, Alan Parker, Jacob Ungerleider and Brandon Lane, seemed to bring a warm breeze in with them.
There’s a sly political bent to Prass’ 2018 album, The Future and the Past. Ahead of its release, she said she actually had a different album nearly finished, but scrapped a huge chunk of it after Donald Trump’s election, which in turn led her to make this album instead. She highlights this mission statement on the album opener — and first song she performed at the desk — “Oh My.” It’s a track that speaks pointedly about the abject feeling of horror and exhaustion that seeps in when you tune into the news cycle, with bleak lyrics set against bright, dance-y music.
For the unabashedly delightful “Short Court Style,” Prass brings on Angelica Garcia and Kenneka Cook, two backup singers who, like Prass, are from Richmond. It’s a rare kind of song that celebrates hard-won love in all its intricacies.
Before closing with “Hot for the Mountain,” Prass tells the NPR office that “the song’s a little off the beaten path, but, I don’t know, it’s my favorite.” “We’ll take you on / We can take you on,” Prass, Garcia and Cook sing in unison, a refrain that resounds emphatically. Her vision was clear: If you want to overcome the times, find strength in numbers.
“Short Court Style”
“Hot For the Mountain”
Natalie Prass: vocals, keys; Eric Slick: drums; Alan Parker: guitar; Jacob Ungerleider: keys; Brandon Lane: bass; Angelica Garcia: vocals; Kenneka Cook: vocals
Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineers: Josh Rogosin, Patrick Boyd; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kimani Oletu, Beck Harlan, CJ Riculan; Editor: Kimani Oletu; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Production Assistant: Adelaide Sandstrom; Photo: Amr Alfiky/NPR