Nerina Pallot is a self-confessed faffer, but has committed to releasing one EP a month for 2014. In the film released to promote this ground-breaking project, she hints that in the past she has written-off, and not released, entire albums in order to go in another direction, and here, to keep up the quality of the EPs she is putting out, will have to write over and above what we end up hearing. That, my friends, is a lot of song-writing in one year and a brave proposition.
In fact Nerina Pallot has a history of taking risks in the name of music — she re-mortgaged her house to finish off second album Fires, having been dropped by Polydor. The gamble paid off with a hit, “Everybody’s Gone to War”, and she was welcomed back to the majors, hopefully on her own terms.
The EPs though are being released through Pallot’s own independent label, Idaho, and will no doubt give her the complete freedom to put out what she thinks should be delivered.
The Hold Tight is EP number one and a good start; Pallot clearly has a strong ear for melody. “This Year’s Model” is catchy and upbeat with a driving chorus. Perhaps because this is “pop” music, there’s a risk of rock fans writing Pallot off. However the unexpected moments – the singer’s unusual pronunciation of words, shifts in tempo and style, combined with excellent production should keep most listeners engaged. “Hard Equation” is a sexy disco freak-out with a sense of humour, throw-away, but worth repeated listening. “The Hold Tight” is a ballad and shows off Pallot as a pianist and vocalist, with interesting percussion and instrumental breaks. “Closer” zones in on the sense of anticipation of physical contact through the witty naughtiness of the delivery. “Get To Feel” leans towards dark progressive chords, which may not be to everyone’s tastes. But so what? This is kind of the point of the experiment.
EP two, We Should Break Up wears its heart on its sleeve with the letters of the title brightly spelt out on the cover. “Dead to Me” and the title song are close to the bone and in your face, songs about ending it, chucking it in, flying the coup. The former is an exercise in catchy venom whilst “We Should Break Up” explores the problems of still being attracted to someone who’s not a good match. “Thicker Than Blood” is a very impressive radio-friendly track with a charmingly loose vocal. Combined with the previous two songs, you could justifiably make the claim that Pallot is a one woman pop jukebox.
“Happy” is unexpected, far from the idea on Pharrell Williams’ single — on the face of it, the nature of the chorus should mean the song is all about the joy of being together, but because it’s sung ambiguously it turns out to be a more considered piece about getting through the routines of life. Somehow a lot is squeezed in to a relatively short song — it’s an artfully condensed narrative. Finally, “Don’t Be Late” gives us a light and frothy jazz performance in which serious musical chops are displayed.
For those who are willing to take a bet on a work in progress (and couldn’t you say that about all of us?), it’s possible to sign up to a full subscription service on Pallot’s website. You just pay the money and wait for the next EP to appear through your letterbox. Alternatively you can buy them one by one. As one of the songs says, you only fail if you never try.