Jessica Pratt Nods To The Beach Boys & Jazz On Her New Album

It’s ‘60s-style folk to spiral to.

In 2023, Jessica Pratt experienced a brushing with the pop spotlight when Troye Sivan sampled her voice on Something To Give Each Other. The occasion suddenly brought her critic-beloved, ‘60s-mining folk songs to the forefront, but it didn’t changed her course; instead, she doubles down on her idiosyncratic sound on her fourth studio record, Here in the Pitch, a warm and open project with a light Beach Boys-esque surf.

These nine songs might be the sunniest-sounding songs she’s ever recorded, with opening track “Life Is” settling like a desert breeze over the skin. But a deeper look reveals a thornier interior story, as she sings about having a villainous streak, getting “tricked up” by life, and hiding her skeletons from incoming suitors. “I think I struggle with the dark side of things,” she tells NYLON about writing the album, which she chalks up to some of the media she was consuming during its creation. Ahead, Pratt breaks down those influences, which include old Judy Garland records, a Beach Boys biopic, and her visit to Death Valley for the first time.

Great Expectations & War & Peace

Pratt’s copy of War & Peace.Jessica Pratt

Pratt: I was homeschooled in high school by sort of a barely accredited charter school, so I essentially taught myself out of textbooks. As a result, I missed out on a lot of classic literature that you encounter at that age. I've been enjoying exploring the canon, and I was particularly swept away by these two books. I think that hope and despair run through both of these stories. There's sort of two primary motifs in both of the books: This idea of striving for a better life, or virtue of some kind, and realizing that their perception of these ideas is distorted or false.

I feel like these sorts of themes, like bravado, denial, falling short, being confronted with failure or your own demise permeate the record. There is kind of a villain’s arc sketched out across all the songs, which was not intentional, but it sort of takes these themes and takes it a step further. I feel like my experience is always battling my own head, trying to stamp out your own darkness in order to get through.

Disaffected jazz-pop


Pratt: There are a few key artists I was listening to a lot and trying to channel. Scott Walker, latter period Judy Garland, Karin Krog, who was a Scandinavian jazz singer, and Steve Kuhn, a jazz guy who did a solo record where he sings. The unifying theme is a world-weary crooner situation, but also people with very unique, idiosyncratic voices. There's a live Judy Garland album at Carnegie Hall in 1961 [Judy At Carnegie Hall]; by that point, her voice has taken on this very wooly, weathered sound, but she still has amazing range, power, and control. It's this amazing combination, knowing about her life and how f*cked up it was.

I am the type of person who tends to feel a little isolated, and like they're trudging through sometimes. There is something in this world-weariness and beleaguered sound that I relate to. If you think about “Get Your Head Out,” and “Empire Never Know,” “Nowhere It Was,” “The Last Year,” the stuff more at the end of the record, it has a sunny, poppy veneer, but lyrically it's a bit desperate. I like the conflict of those two things.

Love & Mercy (2014)

Roadside Attractions

Pratt: [This] is a biopic about [Beach Boys co-founder] Brian Wilson. The first half of the movie is dealing with classic era 1960s Brian Wilson, making [1966’s] Pet Sounds, and the second half covers his experience working with Dr. Eugene Landy, who was totally abusive and controlling him, essentially, with pills that made him robotic. Most music biopics are pretty awful, but this one was great. Part of that comes down to the really painstaking reconstruction of certain moments in Beach Boys lore [like filming] in the same studio Pet Sounds was actually made in. Even the wardrobe is really pitch perfect.

[When I was making In The Pitch], I was really interested in the atmospherics of [Pet Sounds], and the way you can sort of hear the sound of the studio, the sound of thick silence. The engineer that I worked with, Al Carlson, he's pretty steeped in Beach Boys lore as well. We had fun with some of the songs trying to tap into sounds that we felt were evoking this time period, living in that world mentally, with some of the overdubs.

Death Valley

Jessica Pratt

Pratt: During the making of the record, my dad ended up passing away in 2020, and we had to go and clean his apartment out [in Las Vegas]. Along the way, the desert is all around you. We stopped in Death Valley a couple of times, which I had never seen before, and it's such a bizarre and bleak place. It's not really that far from LA, but it’s completely alien terrain. Even the names, Stovepipe Wells, Furnace Creek, Badwater Basin, feel like names from a certain era. I think the older I get, the more I am awed by places like this.

I think I was thinking about the natural world a little bit more than I had previously, in relation to music. Maybe that's because in 2020, I also moved to a house surrounded by trees. It's on a hillside, and you can see the San Gabriel Mountains out the window. I think seeing this stuff every day has made me ponder the natural world more.

Jessica Pratt’s ‘Here in the Pitch’ is out now.