By Tristan Prettyman
Softly but assertively insouciant, there’s something about Tristan Prettyman’s voice and presence that worms its way into my heart – perszonal and evocative and close to the roots. I’m a big fan of this San Diego surfer/singer/songwriter, so I’m a little disappointed with her second album, Hello, wondering who made some of the ‘artistic’ decisions here. The album opens fittingly and encouragingly with “Hello,” but then … not sure about the building strings and synth layered into this simple tune … the slide guitar is nice, but handclaps? It’s all a little overproduced and… uh-uh-uh, uh-uh-uh, uh-uh-uh, uh-uh-uh-uh! (love that!) … The Jack Johnsonesque title song is nice, but somehow (like most of these songs) lacking the grit of her great first album, twentythree.
I think the problem with Hello is not Prettyman’s songs or her voice or her cool and slashy guitar style, it’s “everything else” – it’s the chorus on “California Girl,” the clapping on “Madly”, the strings and clapping on “You Got Me,” the bells, strings, old-school keyboard, and chorus (!) on “Don’t Work Yourself Up” … and so on.
Great songs, great Tristan, but the whole thing seems overproduced. It’s as if, now that Prettyman’s had some success, her label feels obliged to lavish more production assets on her. The problem is that all this subtracts from the spare intimacy of twentythree. Sorry, but I see the poor girl drowning in someone else’s dessert.
In an online story, Prettyman professes her love of country-blues and folk from the ’60s and ’70s, artists like The Band, Joni Mitchell, and Bob Dylan, saying: “There’s something really pure and uncontrived about what they do,” she says. “I really connect with that simplicity, and I think it made me write more bluesy songs.” Well, that’s gone missing here, girl, and (if you can believe me) you want it back. Sometimes more is not more.