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Monday
Nov272017

« In Which Nerina Pallot Rains And Also Thunders »

Make It Better

by JANICE LEVENS

Stay Lucky
Nerina Pallot
producer Nerina Pallot
October 20th on Idaho Records

Beauty made my heart a liar.

Nerina Pallot’s new album, her first full length effort since 2011's stunner Year of the Wolf, is at times a sonic sampler. Stay Lucky gives us a full and varied sense of a woman woman entering her 40s. Pallot still seems excited to dip her toes into the thrall of other artists: Fleetwood Mac (“Man Didn’t Walk on the Moon”), Spiritualized (“Bring Him Fire”) and Massive Attack ("Juno"), to name a few. Yet she provides a unity of sound within these homages to wildly divergent artists by seeking the commonality in instrumentation and melody that they share. Her compositions loop around each other so pleasantly that they never outstay their welcome. Perhaps it also Pallot’s voice that synchronizes her themes as well.

Unlike many other artists, marriage and children has not led Pallot to run out of things to say. Her lyrical insights live in the interstices of normative everyday life, and when she slows down on tracks like "Come Into My Room", her own instrument fills any space so sweetly. “I can’t help the way I feel,” explains “I don’t care if I fall from grace.” It is rare that the helplessness of love has been more clearly explicated in any form.

On "Bird" she sings,

Tell me what it means to be free of all the misery
of the world and everything in it
As much as it hurts I know that I'm feeling something
that's better off than feeling nothing.

Pallot decided to marry her husband on her first date, yet whatever impulsiveness she has as a person is restrained beautifully here. She must have the most astonishing perfect instincts, since every move she makes on Stay Lucky, from suddenly bringing in background vocals when you might never expect them, to reducing the soundscape to echoing tickles on a piano in the haunting intro to "Juno", the album's standout track, achieves a sustained and memorable effect.

The second half of the album reprises Pallot’s traditional sound, which can best be described as a jazzier, more substantial Regina Spektor. “Better” terminates in an aimless, semi-passionate saxophone solo that exemplifies the type of meaningful risk Pallot accomplishes even when her songwriting is ticking the most traditional, pleasurable pop boxes. There is something improvisational and fresh in all these songs, as if they sprung out of her in a particular state of mind and now exist more precisely in this form than they ever did while in her head.

Janice Levens is the music editor of This Recording.

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