Nerina Pallot’s most well-known song, “Everybody’s Gone to War”, only reached number 88 on the UK airplay chart when first released in 2005. Two more singles from second album Fires faltered, but Pallot then signed to 14th Floor Records, and the album was remixed and re-issued, as was the first single. As a testament to perseverance and additional promotion, the track hit number three second time around and Pallot appeared on Top of the Pops, the UK’s then leading music television programme. With dismal thinking, it’s a possibility that, ten years and two albums on, Pallot will not grace the high end of the pop charts again; hit records seem to be a matter of luck, being in the right place at the right time, and novelty acts seem to have more of a chance of stealing the limelight. But to use one more cliché, you have to be in it to win it, and Pallot has certainly written enough as a result of her 2014 EP project to endear the gods of good fortune.
“Everybody’s Gone to War” is here on Live from Union Chapel (EP 11 out of 12), in a new strings-only arrangement. It’s remarkably different from the previous somewhat clattering electric versions, but this means that the anti-war message is emphasized. “Buckminster Fuller”, the title track of a 2009 EP, is also played live and is similarly sparse, but accentuated with added female backing vocals. It runs immediately into the optimistic AOR of “This Will Be Our Year” (from album Year of the Wolf), which is smoothly chilled-out. “Sophia” is taken solo at the piano and shows off Pallot’s debt to Kate Bush; “Moments of Pleasure” is next, and turns out to be a cover of a Kate Bush song. It’s well treated by Pallot, with a sensuous vocal and warm backing. Overall the five tracks on the EP (recorded in October 2014) are a good representation of Pallot’s ability for live performance.
Winter Rooms is an altogether different proposition. This final EP, for now anyway, is made up entirely of new studio tracks, themed, as the title suggests, to winter. The British love talking about the weather, probably because on the whole it’s fairly dreadful. “Heaven Helped Us” implores the listener to make the best of life, but despite a sentiment of “mortal hope” the arrangement implies a wintery outlook. “Cold Room” suggests a swirl of inclement conditions outside, with Pallot’s intimate vocal providing a distinctive contrast. “‘Tis the Season” heads towards the more upbeat with some old-fashioned Christmas jazz merriment. “Mary’s Song (How Dark the Night)” is, I think, something, like a re-imagining of the Christmas story.
“In the Winter” could be Britpop crossed with Nirvana, and it’s an interesting experiment with what seem to be obscure lyrics (“who goes downstairs in the winter?”). It’s catchy and a fun close to the end of the EP and the project.
Highlights and lowlights of the entire enterprise will be a matter of taste, and has already been admirably set out elsewhere. However, Pallot’s EP project has surely been a brave and successful artistic experiment.