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Tristan Prettyman – twentythree

Let’s get the obvious comparisons out of the way now, shall we? Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz, Jewel, Norah Jones, even John Mayer. Edie Brickell, maybe Lisa Loeb.

But I hate most of them, and I kinda like Tristan Prettyman. Maybe because I can tell that what she really wants to be is Ani DiFranco, but she just can’t muster up the anger. You can hear Ani in her acoustic guitar-picking, and there’s a dab of Fiona Apple’s sensuality in songs like “Electric” and “Please.”


I hate the graphic design behind her album, that’s for sure. I hate the cutesy handwritten and dotted name, the blurry faux-candid photos and the obligatory back-cover shot of the ocean. Because, of course, Prettyman is from California and she surfs, and once was a Roxy model. (Probably explains the major-label interest–no offense, Virgin, but you do like them, well, “pretty”).

The name twentythree seems to imply that Virgin, and Prettyman herself, know that the songs will be out-of-date in a year, once she hits twenty-four. There are plenty of calls for “wasting time” and “always feel this way” that hint that she knows the world won’t always be a beach vacation.

But there’s lots of promise in between sunny stylings and obviously-in-love lyrics. The extended metaphor of “Smoke” is evocative of darker, sexier things, and the line “you got me all wet / and then left me swimming” from “Please” made me smile and wonder if it could be snuck past mainstream radio censors.

Prettyman hints at a depth of emotion that I find lacking in most of the above-listed names, and though she’s nowhere near the raw honesty and complex lyricism of Apple and DiFranco, I’d like to see the next album from Tristan Prettyman. Maybe the packaging won’t be so determinedly cute, and the purring tease she hinted at through the middle of the record will be more developed. She doesn’t have the anger and the cult appeal of Ani, but she’s certainly not as manifestly bland as Norah Jones.


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