Tristan Prettyman is one of those rare talents. She isn’t mainstream by any stretch of the imagination. Sure, she’s signed to Atlantic records, but being signed to a major is about as important and appealing as chocolate flavored gummi-worms. Mumford and Sons seem to be doing pretty ok. Those who know of Prettyman throw her into that general category of female singer-songwriter along with the likes of Colbie Caillat, Sarah Bareilles, and Ani DeFranco. Her new album, Cedar + Gold, personifies what it means to be a songwriter who continues to really hone in on his/her craft. This album has been in the works for sometime, with her last full-length studio album coming out four years ago. During this time, the highs and lows that come with this journey that we call life have been brought to the forefront. Prettyman’s always had the ability to write thought provoking, sentimental records, and has proven it, but does this translate throughout the entire album? Go ahead and order that second cup of coffee at that favorite spot of yours (that everyone else refers to as Starbucks) before reading this week’s review of Tristan Prettyman’s Cedar and Gold; we’ll be here, waiting…you good? Good.
There is nothing like a cathartic song that transcends simply sounding beautiful, with an unnerving string accompaniment and kick drum that alludes to a pounding heart. “I Was Gonna Marry You” isn’t one of those songs that you can fully appreciate in just one take. Rather, it’s one of those songs you put on repeat so you can fully divulge into and dissect each and every line, each every chord change, and the moments that take your breath away.
Starting off with that pounding kick drum and a happy, yet somehow melancholic all at once, sounding piano, “I Was Gonna Marry You” wraps its arms around you as thoughts come flooding in of that one special person. Despite being a song with a sad message, it’s so poetic that it also offers this feeling of hopefulness. The song is a recollection of what was once fresh is now spoiled. Even if not in that particular mindset, the notion of cherishing what we have while it’s here is important to note, as it serves a greater purpose; cherishing what we do have and accepting what we no longer do.
Prettyman’s lyrics pull on our heartstrings from the get-go. She writes, “I gotta go/Time to spread my wings and fly/Higher than the bluest sky/Never did me any good waiting around/Only so much that my heart can take/Doesn’t matter what you say/Wishing for all we could have been.” This is clearly not a song about a girl being overly dramatic about some relationship that lasted for a couple months and was deemed “true love.” She really felt for this person (Jason Mraz, in case you were wondering) and this song is her ode to that.
Check out her video below:
“When You Come Down,” meanwhile, is a nice break in the album, speaking solely in terms of its production. It’s a light, airy feeling track that you could see Colbie Caillat singing. This shouldn’t be viewed as a detractor, but more as a compliment. She’s not quite as bubbly as Caillat, but she exudes a tone that is soothing and sweet. The majority of this album is a very singer-songwriter, acoustic driven sound with minimalist production, but “When You Come Down” is more done-up. The texture and layering is more apparent and appreciated, helping to create that rich, vibrant sound. Just as in “I Was Gonna Marry You,” Prettyman’s lyrical focus throughout the entire album rests on the complexities and ever changing moods that we all have in relationships. “When You Come Down,” for example, harkens to the sentiment that no matter how hard things get, it is the people that truly care for us who understand that everyone experiences “those kind of days.” The chorus exhibits this overarching theme throughout the record:
“Even when I know you're feeling like flying away
Believe me when I tell you that my love hasn't changed
And the moment don't forget
Tomorrow it will all turn around
I'll be waiting when you come down
Waiting when you come down.”
From beginning to end, Prettyman displays how powerful an outlet her writing has been, subsequent to her broken engagement. This is one of those special albums. It probably won’t be a huge seller, but that doesn’t denote how great it is. Whether contemplating the day-to-day questions to this riddle called life or listening to it as a form of catharsis, Cedar + Gold is worthy of a listen from beginning to end. Until then, Druggernauts!!!