Before even listening one second of this album, I was already biased. First of all, one should know that Petracovich is the pseudonym for Jessica Peters, a singer/keyboardist with light and airy vocals based out of San Francisco. Upon learning that the name was taken from her old-world family name, I was intrigued. My own family had their name changed from what was presumably Eterovich, the Croatian version, to Terich, again presumably, on Ellis Island. Peters does a reversal of that process in a number of ways. Secondly, Peters cites a long list of influences that delve deep into my heart, most specifically Aimee Mann. On her second full-length release, We Are Wyoming, an album dedicated to her grandparents, Peters presents what few solo artists can, a consistency of beauty, depth and proficiency.
Peters’ grandfather would be, as the story was told to her, decked out in a suit while listening to the New York Opera on the radio. She honors this image in a few ways, the first being adding the short snippets of classical, “Clair de Lune” by Debussy and “Fantasy Impromptu” by Chopin. Besides these asides, the rest of We Are Wyoming is a perfect balance between the traditional and the modern. With drum programming and the inserted various electronic sounds that garnered the term `folktronica,’ there is always Peters’ voice, breathy, measured and just a bit seductive. From track to track, she can swap the synthesizer for a traditional piano or acoustic guitar with ease, proving that the idea of `song’ has not changed with technology or modernization. Music is and always has been universal, and Petracovich’s is wonderful, in the traditional sense of the word.
“What If I Came to Get You” is the standout track from the album, switching from Wurlitzer to tinny piano, which recalls the early work of Neil Young, with ease, and a chorus to rival the pop majesty of the aforementioned Mann and also Elliott Smith. The song ends with the sound of rain, giving it that extra added touch, making one think of those days spent inside with a book and listening to the drops hit the window. “The Ultrasound” is another great song with traditional piano that provides a great example of how Peters’ voice becomes, rather than a convention, an actual instrument, weaving in and out of notes like air through leafy boughs. Her sweet falsetto in “Paper Cup” makes the heart ache with sweetness and light.
It might be easy for some to lump Petracovich in with the long line of singer/songwriters in the field today, but that would not do justice to her talent. The complexities of a song like “Others” or “All I Have to Say,” for instance, puts her on a plane with select few. We Are Wyoming is an accomplished and intricately gorgeous work that demands further attention. Listening to the album is like opening an antique music box and finding the delicate tinny notes inside transformed into full-fledged modernized and layered songs, and the ballerina turns, ever onward, with strings tied to one’s heart, reeling it into her world.