Paolo Nutini has grown up.
Having moved away from the folky sound of his previous two albums, These Streets and Sunny Side Up, he seems to have found the sound he is most comfortable with a more produced and soul based feel. Striding forth with the first track of the album, ‘Scream (Funk my Life up)’ draws you into the album with a siren like ability. While hints of the Rolling Stones and Stevie Wonder are seen, it’s most definitely his own song and it’s no coincidence this is the most popular track of the album. It ‘screams’ (sorry) of the new-found maturity in his song writing and is a bold move from the go.
The album follows the classic Nutini pattern of glorious highs and mournful lows, one such low being ‘Iron Sky’. On this track Nutini’s vocals really shine through, and all his sorrows can be heard upon each note. Aided by haunting guitar effects and an echoing piano and bass, it is an intensely powerful song. ‘Iron Sky’ levels the mood midway through the album in epic fashion, and it’s evocative of Elbow in some respects – the guitars here are used in a way that shows his influences from the indie scene. It’s a really polished, fantastic song.
The album is interspersed with two ‘interludes’ and both are characterised by off-beat instrumentals and strong drums – they don’t drag on though, with their length both being under two minutes. The first, ‘Bus Talk (interlude)’, uses female vocals and a drum sample which reminds me of hip hop from the likes of Jay-Z and Kanye West. The second, ‘Super Fly (interlude)’, is almost a reggae style beat, with heavy bass and slightly discordant guitar. They provide short breaks from the main songs, and though they are an interesting concept, they don’t really add anything to the album and seem thrown in almost like a B-side.
‘Better Man’ sees the return to more familiar territory with the use of an acoustic guitar as the main instrument, especially in the beginning of the number. I definitely noticed subtle similarities songs in previous albums such as ‘Candy’ on Sunny Side Up. He then adds soulful electric guitar to break up the lines of lyrics, and it seems less stripped back and threadbare than previous songs.
Paolo sings an acoustic version of ‘Better Man’
Overall the album is extremely strong, and Paolo Nutini is in fine form after his long five year break. There are many exciting ideas running through the record, and while not all come off completely, most are a resounding success. The fact that his sound has changed so much yet he is both more confident and still recognisable is astounding. A fantastic album.
This article was written by Sam Brunt