June 15, 2011
Review: Nerina Pallot's Year Of The Wolf
On June 13, British songstrel Nerina Pallot released her fourth and finest album, Year Of The Wolf. With the assistance of producer Bernard Butler, she has finally found the perfect sound - one that combines elements of several great singer songwriters of the 70's. Although she is sublime with a melody, Wolf reminds me how important Nerina's lyrics are to her music. Here is a track by track from the notes I took the first time I heard it...
Put Your Hands Up. Nerina's masterpiece. The song is so ebullient... "I just see stars when I'm with you, oh this is my heart that I give you." The love that everyone dreams about.
Turn Me On Again has rock guitar at the start, but there are big strings and happy singalong vocals. "Got your fingers on my wrist now, accidentally on purpose." The chorus is kind of a chant that kids might sing. And a big rock guitar solo - thanks Bernard Butler - I suspect this will work well live, but it's not my favorite.
All Bets Are Off has verses reminiscent of classic Bonnie Raitt "woman singing in a bar" tunes, but the chorus is all swooning strings. It makes heartbreak sound sound like a glorious moment of freedom (and, dare I say, like a hit single?). The middle eight has an extended instrumental string section that is rare these days - Nerina lets this song stretch out languidly. The end is amazing: a hushed instrumental harp coda.
This Will Be Our Year is simpler, with the voice right up front and horns on the chorus. Much of this album sounds like a 1970's singer/songwriter record, like Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, Elton John. This could easily have been recorded in 1974.
If I Lost You Now is pure Norah Jones meets Adele. A concise guitar ballad.
Butterfly reminds me of Sheryl Crow. And this is not quite good news.
I Think is hilarious. The chorus - a bit chanty - is "Don't give me your shit, don't give me your shit / We both've got problems, we're living with it, living with it..." Drinking song!
Grace starts as a country tune, with guitar and voice. A cello appears on the chorus and it melts into a heartbreaker: "I just wanna love you, I just wanna try. Cuz life is so short and we're both gonna die... as long as we're here, we must try."
I Do Not Want What I Do Not Have is not a Sinead O'Connor cover. It starts out spookily, but the beat threatens to turn it into a bar song. The chorus has a lot of "oooh oohhhs" Now is the time to say that Bernard Butler does not really make Nerina sound like Duffy, thank God. I was worried about that he would Motown her to death.
Will You Still Love Me fits into a line of Nerina tunes that sound like standards (It Was Me is another). That kind of piano and strings ballad, but then it gets a bit more jaunty in the second half. The chorus is a keeper. Short and lovely at 2:51.
History Boys is the big ballad, with really high vocals. Reminiscent of a Rufus Wainwright song. "All these ghosts, sons of mothers..." "How will I hide the fear in my face?" A piano and cello/violin breakdown midway through. "How do you sleep with all that you've done? Sending somebody else's son to die?... saluting your own charade as we line up in this heartless parade." The end will give you chills.
Year Of The Wolf is out now in England and Europe. There is no scheduled US date.