Friday, 28 May 2010

Nerina Pallot - The Graduate

The problem with the market for female singer-songwriters is that it is fit to busting at the moment and with offerings from Lady Gaga to Taylor Swift and every flavour in between, consumers are getting a bit choiced out. So to get your head above the parapet today requires an unusual talent. In my Top 12 albums of the Noughties, I singled out ‘Fires’ by UK singer Nerina Pallot as it is a work of real, if yet unsung, talent. As a consequence, I have been living with its follow up, ‘The Graduate’ for a few weeks now and feel I am in a position to judge whether it is worthy of its predecessor.

‘The Graduate’ has not had an easy birth. Nerina was guided towards collaborating with other big name songwriters for this album but none of that material appears on this album which she has released on her own 14th Floor record label. This all speaks volumes about the music industry and its machinations. Aimee Mann was also forced down this route and ended up writing and issuing her own stuff through her own label. Why can’t people recognise that talent needs to be nurtured not interfered with?

So what of ‘The Graduate’ – named in honour of Nerina passing her Degree in English Literature? Whereas ‘Fires’ has a pervading atmosphere of worthiness and endeavour, ‘The Graduate’ sounds much looser and almost playful in a way that allows her personality and humour to come through. She has widened her horizons and included material that is at one extreme, pure pop and which may have the Scissor Sisters wondering whether to take her on as songwriter, and at the other, more experimental.

In the former camp is the wonderful ‘Real Late Starter’, a peon to slackers everywhere, the knowing ‘I Don’t Want To Go Out’ and the self deprecating ‘When Did I Become Such a Bitch?’ All these show her kooky character to its best advantage. But she can be serious, as the touching ‘Coming Home’ about her father shows and she can be quite breathtaking as in ‘It Starts’ where she tries on Kate Bush’s shoes and finds that not only do they fit, they allow her to run for miles and be earnest without mawkishness.

The key track in the experimental category is ‘Cigarette’ which at a languid 5 plus minutes is a maelstrom of influences from early Bowie and Pink Floyd through to psychedelia period Beatles. I feel this may be the divider for her fans to date and already it is prompting much comment amongst reviewers. Personally, I love it but more importantly, I think it points the way for her as an artist so that her USP is pushed as far away from the pack as possible. In summary, this is another fine album from a great talent who is refusing to stand still and has brushed off the doubters and ploughed her own furrow. Long may it continue.

Like Little Boots, Nerina is a great one for posting informal 'at home' videos on YouTube. Here's her stunning version of 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'. Its rawness and honesty in performance touches me deeply...and I still love to hear the piano played properly.


J Manchester said...

Hello, Martin. Well, I'll be doggoned (to quote M. Gaye) if I'm not about to slap down $9.99 for this Graduate thing. You're right, she has a nice touch on that piano. Also a strong voice. The clips over at itunes suggests the songs and production might be interesting too.
But, (to quote A. Mann), I've been wrong before.
Nelly Furtado album, one good song. Same with the Corrs. I promise not to blame you if I don't like it.
Not bad writing on your part, either. Next thing I'll be buying your danged book.

J Manchester said...

P.S. I'm ready to buy this Nerina. Which of hers do you recommend I get first?

musicobsessive said...

Hi John - I suggest you buy 'Fires', her second album as a starter. Definitely NOT a one-song album. Check out the Amazon comments if you need a consensus! I'd follow up with 'The Graduate' if you become hooked. The first album has some nice stuff on it ('Patience' being my fav) but is not so consistent.

Happy listening!

John said...

I bought the first Pallot album before I saw your recommendation. I LOVE it! I got Fires after that, only had a chance to listen to it once -extraordinary production, but the songs haven't hit me as hard as those on the first. Must listen again.
Thanks for hooking me up, it's no small thing with music as it is today.

musicobsessive said...

Hi John! Thanks for stopping by - and glad to be of service. 'Fires' is a bit of a grower, so give it time. The likes of 'Idaho', 'Sophia' and 'Geek love' will get you in the end, I promise.

j manchester said...

I don't doubt it. And I'll need, because i'll soon be needing something to drive some of those earworm choruses on the first one from my head.
BTW, do you know Vanessa Carlton's "Heroes and Thieves"?

musicobsessive said...

John - I don't know her but now that I do, I'll check her out. Thanks!