I have reason to believe Chris will be writing the Thursday columns from now on, which is pretty dank, seeing as I have a bunch of studying to do. Today, he’s all about Paolo Nutini.
This week, I’ll be skipping the witty opening remark and am getting straight to business. Up for review today is the new album from Scottish singer/songwriter Paolo Nutini (POW-lowe new-TEEN-ee). I first started listening to him around this time last year – I was searching through ringtones and Alexei told me to pick a single from his debut album, “New Shoes”. You may have heard it in a commercial, or Scrubs (no, I don’t get all my music from Zach Braff… in fact, I have a sneaking suspicion HE gets it from everydaymusic). A ten second polyphonic clip was all it took to hook me, and his debut album These Streets soared into my Top 20. It’s a refreshing blend of upbeat pop, hard hitting rock, and slowed down soul – with a Scottish edge. Not to mention he recorded and released it when he was 19 years old.
Today, however, is about Sunny Side Up, his most recent (and self-produced) release. I didn’t even realize it was out until he played the single “Coming Up Easy” on Conan two weeks ago – glad to see him getting U.S. exposure. I’ve been listening to it on the trip between Jax and Gainesville. It’s so good, it broke my CD player!
Not really. The unit broke on its own, but Paolo did happen to be playing at the time. Anyway, I have no creative inspiration today, so I’ll just be simple and do a track-by-track.
Track 1: Ten Out Of Ten
This is an excellent way to start off the album. It’s very much like the happier songs from his first album, with a little more experience. Excellent horns and awesome raspy vocals combine with simple, original lyrics. He sings about wanting to impress a girl on the date he’s on – and earn a ten out of ten for the night. Unfortunately, not only am I not a girl, but this scale doesn’t go to ten. So we’ll just call this song “Four Point Five Out Of Five”. Not as catchy, I guess – titles have always been my weak spot. 4½
Track 2: Coming Up Easy
This song kicks off with what I think is the organ (if I’m gonna keep with this gig, maybe I should learn something about music), then his signature voice and some dank horns. It’s a real chill song, kind of what I imagine would happen if Louisiana and Scotland got it on while listening to Reel Big Fish. The chorus kicks ass – “It was in love I was created/And in love is how I hope I die” – fresh as fruit and simple to boot. 5
Track 3: Growing Up Beside You
This one starts slow, with some accordion I believe, then gets into the traditional acoustic guitar flow. It’s a tender song, very relatable, but doesn’t stand out. Still solid, however. 3½
Track 4: Candy
“Candy” is Paolo’s first single from Sunny Side Up. I wasn’t in charge of that decision, because it’s clearly the wrong one. By no means is it a bad song, but it fails to highlight his unique style as well as some of the other tunes. I think Candy is a euphemism for sex in this case, though, but it’s not as cheeky as getting an entire generation of white people to say the word “skeet” extensively before ever knowing what it meant. 3½
Track 5: Tricks Of The Trade
A lot (see: most) of Nutini’s songs make him sound far older than 22, both in voice and in writing, and this song is an explicit example. It’s another of his slower songs, though, which I enjoy less than his happy frappy crap, but it’s done well and shows how he’s progressing as an artist. 3½
Track 6: Pencil Full Of Lead
Sick percussion, legit horns, carefree lyrics. This is the Paolo I love – the aforementioned happy frappy crap. The instruments are stellar on this track – multiple brass, the usuals, and even some harmonica tossed in. “I got a shelf full of books and most of my teeth /A few pairs of socks and a door with a lock/I got food in my belly and a license for my telly/And nothin’s gonna bring me down” – golden. 5
Track 7: No Other Way
Yet another song clocking low on BPMs. This one, though, maintains a blues-y feel without being depressing or boring. Good instrumental performance, decent lyrics, great vocals. Plus, I think I even hear some backing gospel singers. 4
Track 8: High Hopes
I always dig his positive jam. “High Hopes” is poppy without overdoing it and proves there’s plenty of wisdom to obtain before reaching America’s drinking age. I hear Carribean influence, but I hear bluegrass too. Intriguing. I think there might eve be a flute in there. If it’s not a flute, though, Paolo’s got my back when he sings “There’s no harm in being wrong you know/In fact, to me, it’s common ground,” so I ain’t worried. 4½
Track 9: Chamber Music
Misleading title. Not only is it not chamber music, but it’s just a single acoustic guitar and two short verses. The second half, however, is entirely instrumental, and has heavy Scottish/Irish influence, and is clearly the better half. 3
Track 10: Simple Things
This song impresses me from line 1: “Oh, if you love the life you live, then you’ll get a lot more done”. This guy is full of simplistic wisdom. I guess it would make sense it comes out full force in a melody called “Simple Things”, a tune that attests to the happiness a cup of tea can impart on an individual. 4
Track 11: Worried Man
This one begins hard and anxious – once again, guess that makes sense, considering the title. The chorus brings the song up though, and even has some country/old west sounding bits. Maybe some Johnny Cash inspiration. 3½
Track 12: Keep Rolling
This one’s the closer. It’s a two and a half minute song with a single verse, super slow. So slow, in fact,I’m not even sure if there’s any music for the last minute. I can’t tell, though, because I have a new neighbor who listens to shitty R&B from 10 P.M. to 12:30 A.M. every night on full volume. Either way, shitty way to end the album, unless he means Keep Rolling blunts. 2½
Up until this review I had some difficulty deciding where Sunny Side Up placed in my mindTunes library, but getting it on paper (screen?) helps a lot. I already knew I didn’t like it as much as his debut, but I like it more than I thought I did. It’s got a few gems, and I think he’s just as good – but these tunes just didn’t resonate as much, maybe because he’s not new and fresh to me anymore. If you can only pick one to listen to, go with These Streets, but if you’ve got deep pockets, do both. Oh, he’s also excellent live, which is exemplified on the bonus CD from his first album. Sunny Side Up, though, gets a 4 from me. Paolo Nutini is a talented dude, and he’s already done a lot for his age. I expect him to be around awhile, maybe win some awards, score some radio play, make some cash. I don’t know how the U.S. dollar is stacking up to sterling these days though, so he might wanna focus on the European market if he’s lookin’ to bank.
Well, that’s it for this week, but I’ll be back in a week to review Mika’s new album The Boy Who Knew Too Much. Sounds like a suspense/thriller, but the cover is full of rainbowed cartoons, so for the time being we’ll classify it as “mystery”. Feel free to whet your ear-ppetite until then.