Philly singer-songwriter Julia Pratt is refreshingly direct in the bio on her Spotify page: “I make songs I wanna listen to!” Truly it’s the best way for an artist to operate: you’re being honest with yourself, you’re being honest with your listeners, you’re not confining yourself to a stylistic box. And if you have great taste — and she most definitely does — the results can be stellar.
Pratt is a pianist, guitarist, and vocalist with a studied background in jazz; if you see her play a solo set, like the one we caught last year in World Cafe Live’s Louge stage, it might remind you of Melody Gardot or Samara Joy. But the more she’s released music over the past few years, the more she expands her fluid sound into R&B, pop, and indie. Her latest release, the shimmering and introspective electropop single “Odyssey” — as well as the as-yet unreleased songs that fall at either end of the Key Studio Session Pratt recorded this month at WXPN studios — sees her channeling the spirits of Fiona Apple and Billie Eilish, Indigo de Souza and Regina Spektor.
The four-song set is remarkably balanced — on two songs, Pratt is joined by her bandmates Harlee Torres on bass and Tate Berkey on drums, the other two she performs solo. Half the set features piano, and the other half features guitar. Two are songs can be heard in her streaming services back-catalog, two are brand new.
The band reinterprets “Odyssey” analog-style, and the song packs just as much punch as a ballad with live instrumentation as the single does with its portal into digital self-reflection. The burning “Tried and True” could quiet down the chattiest jazz club; the brand new “Would It Kill Ya,” which releases next month, strolls to a sleek and infectious groove. And the set-closing “Little Bug” is witty and weighty, addressing loneliness and mortality in a kidding-but-not kind of way, and the Mariah-level high notes Pratt hits at the conclusion will leave you breathless.
Watch the session below, and for more, follow her on Instagram at @juliaprattmusic.