EPs nine and 10 in Pallot’s 2014 song-writing project are polar opposites of each other; from the cheery to despondent.
In the space of a year, Nerina Pallot will have more than doubled her catalogue of songs through the release of her 2014 EPs. For all you statisticians out there, her four albums in the nine years from debut Dear Frustrated Superstar to last album Year of the Wolf yielded approximately 45 songs (not counting b-sides to singles, songs given to other artists or other side projects). This year there'll probably be an additional 60 songs or so spread out over 12 discs or downloads, a dramatic increase to her overall repertoire.
Small Things is EP nine, and it's a delight. A friend in need is a friend indeed (or a pest, depending on your viewpoint), and “Count On Me” is a rousing hymn to dependability with some edgy guitar playing by Tim Van der Kuil and Luke Potashick. “Stand Up” is also upbeat, with some humorous lyrics about "manning up", and only being right 99 per-cent of the time. “Small Things” is saved from the whimsy of references to Sellotape and John Travolta by a huge vocal. “Lay Down With Me” is hip and clubby, the most commercial track on the CD, co-written with producer and husband Andy Chatterley. Closer “Feels Like Home” is nice enough, gentle, chilled-out and relaxed, just as you would hope a home would be.
As we take a break between EPs, imagine a dedicated army of elves packing-up these CDs every month and sending them around the world. Elves or not, this project has a sharp level of detail to it; each CD has new art for the cover (for Small Things there is an emphasis on bright green, but Spirit Walks is ominously black), and each CD arrives in an envelope with a label sometimes customised in line with the cover art. A completist could well end up keeping the labels (and Pallot fans on occasion seem to be very serious about their calling), but at the risk of offending the retentive, this may well be a kind of creepy thing to do.
Back to the music itself, and Spirit Walks starts in opposing fashion, because the title track is about being uninspired. Taking stock of nature, this song uses pathetic fallacy with a shuffling rhythm to reflect a flat state of mind. It's interesting mainly because of the studio presentation. “Not Over You (2014)” re-visits a song from a 2013 EP, Lonely Valentine Club, which is not part of this project. For this new version, the recording has a hip back-beat. “Handle” is despondent, rock bottom, with prominent piano, as Pallot recites “tell me things are going to get better” in almost desperate prayer. “You and I” is not a world away from the Wilco song of the same title, in that it’s about blocking out all the external distractions in a relationship (“You and I were made for more”). The song is probably the best one on the EP. The final track, “If This Ain’t Real” is a minimalist and spacey meditation. Both this and “Spirit Walks” are determinedly modernist, and are again both co-written with Andy Chatterley.
So these sequential EPs are quite different propositions; both are good listens, with number nine full of positivity and the 10th exploring a thoroughly downward trajectory. With two EPs left to release before the end of the year, this project looks close to successful completion, but it may only be some time later we can begin to fully appreciate the achievement.