On her debut album Natalie Prass embraced her feminine side, releasing music that was lush and syrupy in the best way. Some (male) critics compared the songs to Disney music as though that was a bad thing, but mostly the reviews were as sparkling as the sound. Only a few years have passed but the world has changed irrevocably – it feels like a darker place where harsh truths can no longer be sugar coated, for better and worse. Prass scrapped her original recordings for this album and started again in order that the music better reflect her feelings about this new reality. On the cover of The Future & The Past she has deliberately chosen to wear a suit and stand defiant, looking towards us with a serious stare. This album will say something about the world, and she will not be silenced.
Prass has always been influenced by R’n’B and soul music, and this album fully embraces that sound. Produced again by Matthew E. White and recorded at his Spacebomb studios with the house band, the sound is as pristine and perfect as we have come to expect from them. The opening track Oh My is built around a tough sounding groove – proving you can write a funky, upbeat song which still reflects the state of the world. Protesting isn’t just for folk singers, after all. Are we losing our minds? She sings, in her state of shock and confusion at watching the news.
Short Court Style evokes the smooth slow jam style of her heroine Janet Jackson (and yes their singing style is uncannily similar). Natalie has covered her in the past and this is a natural evolution of that sound. On this song, love is the only positive force we have left, even with all its ups and downs. Never Too Late is another song filled with hope for the future. Take me back to the heart, she sings wistfully.
The last time I saw Natalie live someone actually set their hair on fire and we nearly had to evacuate the building so it’s kind of fitting there’s a song on here called ‘The Fire’. It starts with a nice little string interlude, before erupting into an 80s inspired beat. She has no fear of love, even if it burns.
Hot For the Mountain with its defiant repetition of ‘we’ll take you on/ we can take you on’ feels powerful and timely. Slowly the marginalised will rise up and take their rightful place, this is only the beginning. Sisters reminds women to find the strength in each other, to embrace the power of being labelled ‘nasty’ and use it to our advantage. It’s also just a great sing-along, feel good anthem and hey we all need one of those too.
Lost is a beautiful lament to a doomed relationship, one of the songs left from her original recordings for the album. There’s relief at escaping from someone’s destructive grip and realising that you have your power back. Sometimes getting lost is the only way to be certain of your direction.
Far From You echoes the softer, more fragile style of her debut album. Fittingly this is a song for Karen Carpenter, one of her heroes, who Natalie actually played on the TV show Vinyl. To reach out across time, and honour the memory of someone who you admire like this is a truly beautiful thing.
The album finishes with the uplifting ‘Ain’t Nobody’ a shimmering slice of pop which tells us to ‘sing out your voices’ and ‘stand like a rock’. Even if the ships are going down all around the message is clear: don’t give up.
Natalie Prass has taken a step forward on this album, and her music has a unique style and vision which feels refreshing and daring even at times. The Future & The Past may have taken some time to get here but these brave and brilliant songs were worth waiting on.