After years of performing together and writing songs that combine catchy hooks with time-tested storylines of life and love, 2019 saw Jessica Skinner and Jeff Pitts, the duo known as Prettier Than Matt, experience divergent events in their own lives. Skinner got engaged to her longtime boyfriend the same week that Pitts’ mother passed away. The jarring combination of happy and sad emotions packed into the days surrounding that week sent the pair down a deeply personal songwriting path over the subsequent year, and now listeners can hear the results on Prettier Than Matt’s latest full length album, Colors.
Focusing inward, Skinner and Pitts found added maturity and evocative imagery in their writing, while musically the duo stayed well within the comfortable acoustic pop style it has perfected through four previous albums.
Just because these are intensely personal songs doesn’t mean they can’t be applied universally; in fact at times the metaphorical nature of the proceedings masks any specifics. Opening song “Flower In The Sidewalk” is one example, where the simple image of a flower growing in cracked concrete is a means to discuss our dependence on others and the fleeting nature of time itself. “Everything” is chock full of lines like “Turn tears to smiles, my winters into spring,” as it uses a bouncy melody worthy of Jason Mraz to assure the listener “You’re my everything.”
Skinner’s warm, emotive voice gets some extra workout time on songs such as “Lose Myself,” where she delivers her
lines in a bluesy, torch singer style: “I don’t want to lose myself, trying to become someone else,” she sings, so passionately that you know she means it personally.
Pitts gets in on the lead vocals for a few songs, including the back-and-forth duet style of “May Cannot Be The Same,” mirroring the relationship tug of war in the lyrics. “Over And Over And Over,” directly references his personal losses
with lines such as “Grief stands beside me and it doesn’t end.”
The few tunes included that are less specifically about Pitts
or Skinner are equally compelling, from the slow, simmering
production of “Retrograde” and “Breathe” to the country-pop
“Small Town Famous” that sounds like a tune Taylor Swift
would have had a huge hit with early in her career.
The closing track on the album, “Coming Home (ETA),” also
serves to sum up the personal struggles and triumphs of the
past two years, from loss to celebration, through pandemic
“All I want are some deep conversations in daylight,
No big thinking in the middle of the night
I’ll see you in the morning when the coffee’s right
And there we’ll be you and me.”
Prettier Than Matt has been through the kind of experiences
that shape our lives, both good and bad. Colors is the
sound of the duo processing these times into new music for
you and me.
1. Play Pretty: released May 7, 2013
2. Prettier Than Matt: released October 30, 2014
3. Christmas Jams: released November 20, 2014
4. Better Left Said: released April 23, 2016
5. Uncover: released November 3, 2017
6. Cover: released August 23, 2018
7. Retrograde: released May 25, 2019
8. Colors: released April 9, 2021