Sometimes you look for a complex and challenging album, but sometimes one that doesn’t act like something it’s not is equally as nice to hear. Prairie Cat is definitely the latter, and has released a playful and honest new album in Who Knows Where to Begin?
Prairie Cat is the west-coast answer to Will Currie and the Country French (or perhaps vice versa)—refreshing keys-based melodies and honest, memorable songwriting. Who Knows is undeniably a song all about relationships—from songs based on the “if you’ve got nothing nice to say…” aphorism to navigating a series of fights to a song about being clumsy. Every song has some kind of memorable lyric, like “One bad love to another, I left your house for the comfort of friends.”
From the music box that opens up the title track to the almost entirely electronic closer, it’s clear that this will be a pretty album, and it never once slides into something less than that. The piano-focused music already distinguishes the music from a large part of the pop market, and a very sensible use of strings and trumpet elevates it further.
The title track’s breeziness belies the song’s less-than-cheery subject matter, as the narrator seems to be taking stock of a relationship. The kind of jazzy melody speeds up at one point in the song as the narrator’s frustration grows. The same cheery instrumentals mask “Beautiful Baby.” The emphasis on guitar here already makes the song pretty unique, but then there’s the biting opening lyrics: “It must have been a beautiful baby, you’ve got your mother’s eyes/It must have been a beautiful baby, you’ve got your sister’s lies.”
Vocalist/front man Cary Pratt’s voice is affecting, to the point where every line seeps with emotion. In one of the album standouts “Bad Storm,” you can feel Pratt’s hurt as he sings about going from “one bad storm to another” and retreating to the comfort of friends when the relationship goes sour. “You Weren’t There” focuses on the relationships between friends, and defines them by how willing a friend is to stick up for another.
Elsewhere, Pratt is a bit less serious, like on “Upright Beast.” Sweeping strings give the song a nice way to open, but once the keys come in Pratt compares himself to an ape coming down from the trees and dragging his knuckles. “On a Lamb,” the uncharacteristically electronic song that ends the album, repeats the ironic phrase “Busted, for something I never did.”
The answer to the question the album asks is simple: start at the beginning and go right to the end. You’ll likely be repeating this process a lot.
Top Tracks: “No Bedroom”; “Bad Storm”; “On a Lamb”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)