For her sixth studio album, Nerina Pallot has produced a funkier, jazzy release. And while it’s relatively short, it’s a delight throughout.
Across five (now six) albums and numerous EPs, Nerina Pallot has accrued a back-catalogue of music large enough to rival many bands that have been active much longer than her. Not only that, her track record is better than many long-active artists too. That’s not just an throwaway line; I can genuinely say that the vast majority of her music is stuff I really enjoy. I am an ever-growing fan.
Like her previous album The Sound and The Fury, Stay Lucky was funded and released through PledgeMusic. Unlike that release though, I decided to pledge towards this one. There was never any doubt I would end up buying either album. I own CD copies of all of Nerina Pallot’s albums, and have tried to track down as many of the EPs digitally as I can. It just came down to if the exchange rate made the price unreasonable, like it did last time, which thankfully it did not.
There was also a very tempting extra offered this time round. One of the purchase options was a cassette edition of Stay Lucky. Cassettes were a big part of my childhood, and I’ve been wanting to buy some albums on cassette for a while, so it took a lot of willpower not to buy that edition. In the end, it just wasn’t good value for money.
As with my other album reviews, I’ve listed previous Nerina Pallot songs each track reminds me of (with the album they come from), a rank for each track on this album, as well as a few comments about each track. Plus there’s an overview of the album as a whole at the bottom.
Reminds me of: Rousseau [The Sound and The Fury], Alien [Dear Frustrated Superstar]
Rank on this album: 3
Juno beautifully sets the scene for this whole album.
Nerina’s bluesy, vulnerable voice pairs perfectly with the light guitar and deep piano, and shines when matched by rising strings. Those rousing vocals strike straight through you.
The lyrics make repeated mention of a bird, clearly tying it to the last track on the album. I’m sure there’s some deeper meaning to the rest of the lyrics, but I just couldn’t make it out.
2. Man Didn’t Walk on the Moon
Reminds me of: Seventeen [Year of the Wolf]
Rank on this album: 5
Man Didn’t Walk on the Moon has a funky, yet light 70’s feel. Guitar twangs add emphasis to phrases, and backing vocals give the chorus a pseudo-gospel feel. A funk-rock guitar solo feels like it should be out of place, but isn’t.
This song is about the power of infatuation, and the things it can do to a person. The title refers to the fact the narrator is so infatuated with the song’s subject, she doesn’t care about his questionable opinion on the moon landing. Believe it or not, this is a specific situation I’ve actually heard people mentioned having experienced before.
Further to that, I read this song as the first part in a narrative that continues across a number of this album’s tracks. It tells the tale of a young woman, possibly a teenager, becoming intimate with a hottie on vacation. Various lyrics also point to it being set in the past.
3. Bring Him Fire
Reminds me of: Turn Me On Again [Year of the Wolf], Ain’t Got Anything Left [The Sound and The Fury]
Rank on this album: 8
Bring Him Fire is a seductive, yet fiery funk number, and the track that most reminded me of Nerina Pallot’s previous work. That’s not to say it’s without its own surprises, such as a heavily distorted guitar duelling with the vocal twice in the middle of the song. Violins also are used to build up the intensity around the choruses.
I read this song as a continuation of the story begun in the previous track, where the narrator is now describing her burning passion to get it on with the previously-mentioned hottie.
4. Come into My Room
Reminds me of: Geek Love [Fires], Sophia [Fires]
Rank on this album: 10
Voice takes centre stage in Come into My Room, with complementary piano, and occasional touches of guitar and backing vocals. The lyrics are lustful, yet calm with a hint of innuendo.
I read this song as part three of the multi-song story started on track 2. In some ways, the sentiment of this song is similar to the last, but delivered with a wholly different, more subdued tone.
5. Stay Lucky
Reminds me of: Everything’s Illuminated! [The Graduate], Human [The Graduate], Handle [The Sound and The Fury]
Rank on this album: 6
Stay Lucky opens with an arpeggio-based riff, which carries throughout the whole song. The bridge/solo sounds like it’s played on a theremin, but I think it’s actually an organ of some type.
The lyrics are an ode to someone who has or is pulling through a serious health scare, pledging their importance to the world.
A French-language version of this track was also released, which I actually think I enjoyed more, just because I feel some of the phrases sound more rhythmic.
6. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Reminds me of: This Will Be Our Year [Year of the Wolf], Happy [My Best Friends are Imaginary]
Rank on this album: 1
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter has the feeling of a classic jazz-blues ballad. However, it’s packed with little musical surprises, subverting your expectations. For example, going into the chorus, you expect the vocal pitch to continue down, but instead Nerina brings it up.
The little touches of horns that support the lyrics made me swoon. The piano solo fits perfectly with the style, and comes in at just the perfect moment. The latter half of the solo is accompanied by voice and flute, giving it a further gentle softness.
I could easily imagine someone like Shirley Bassey or Hetty Kate singing this track; it is such an instant classic for me.
Reminds me of: Rainbow [Dear Frustrated Superstar]
Rank on this album: 2
Better has a more electronic sound than the rest of this album. It opens with an ethereal feel, which quickly evolves into a funky plod, more fitting with its neighbours.
This track has not one, but two prominent solos: an organ solo, which appears about halfway and maintains the tone and pace up to that point, and a saxophone solo that closes the song. I love the sax solo, with all its twists and turns. It’s a perfect cooldown to the choral chants that serve as the climax of the song, just before it. There’s also a little bit of swearing on this track, just so you know.
8. All Gold
Reminds me of: Damascus [Fires], History Boys [Year of the Wolf]
Rank on this album: 7
All Gold is probably the most cryptic track on this album. It is a serene, story-heavy song, that I interpret to have some religious meaning, but I’m not totally sure.
The opening riff reminds me of They Might Be Giants’ Mink Car. Violins match the vocals in the chorus, along with a rhythmic piano riff.
9. Come Back to Bed
Reminds me of: It Starts [The Graduate]
Rank on this album: 9
Come Back to Bed is a seductive ballad, that would be quite at home in the repertoire of a lounge singer. The piano gives the song an extra dramatic flair, underlying the strained vocals, which give the song a genuine sense of pleading. The presence of an electric guitar solo, with a Western twang, feels like it shouldn’t fit but somehow it does and well.
I also read this track as possibly a final piece in the multi-song narrative started in track 2.
Reminds me of: Grace [Year of the Wolf]
Rank on this album: 4
Bird sees the return of the oft-mentioned bird from Juno, the opening track.
In this song, the narrator looks to a seemingly carefree bird for advice on how to live life, but finds resolve within herself when she realises that even pain has its place and importance.
Something about the rhythm of the vocals on this song reminds me of Jamiroquai. I can imagine an amazing disco remix.
A whole choir of backing vocals kick in towards the end, giving the song, and album, a final kick of power.
When I first listened to Stay Lucky, two things struck me. The first was the shared narrative, or at the very least, cross-song themes.
As mentioned above, I interpreted five of the songs on Stay Lucky to be part of a continuous story. If this was the intention or not, I can’t be sure. Either way, these tracks clearly share some elements that make them feel connected, along with the overt connection between Juno and Bird.
In fact, I get the sense that every track is packed with literary references and deeper meaning just beyond my understanding.
The second thing that struck me was the style of the tracks. This release is dominated by songs I would classify as jazz, funk or both. This was particularly striking because before I convinced myself to pre-order Stay Lucky, I listened to the pre-release singles: Stay Lucky in English and French, Better, and Man Didn’t Walk on the Moon. Hearing those isolated samples, I didn’t get the sense of just how jazzy this album would be, which turned out to be an awesome surprise.
That said, Nerina Pallot has lost none of her pop sensibilities here, and instead puts them to fantastic use throughout.
Stay Lucky is full of continued evidence of what an expert wordsmith and master of evocative imagery Nerina Pallot is, like this beauty from The Heart is a Lonely Hunter: “I will slide slowly, like honey off a knife”.
This release is characterised not just by its jazz/funk style, but also by a particular sound. A sound that is unique and recognisable throughout for its use of piano, organ and harpsichord, midwestern guitar and uplifting strings.
The solos on each track are short by industry standards, but that’s not a problem. It just means they don’t overstay their welcome, or take away from the song they’re in.
Once again, Nerina Pallot has managed to produce an album full of tracks with that characteristic “Nerina Pallot” sound, without leaning on previous work basically at all. Everything here sounds unique and new, yet immediately identifiable as Nerina Pallot. Nothing feels like a repeat or rehash of some past song. And that might be Nerina’s greatest talent: producing new, beautiful music that sounds the same, yet so totally different.
RATING: 8.5/10 – ★★★★★★★★✬☆
But you don’t have to take my word for it… Listen to the album for yourself, and make up your own mind. Then you can let me know what you think of Nerina Pallot’s Stay Lucky.
So, have you ever heard of Nerina Pallot? What’s your favourite of her songs? Did you pre-order Stay Lucky? What do you think? Did it live up to your expectations? Have I said anything you disagree with? Tell me & everyone else who passes through here what you think in the comment below.
To Infinity and Beyond,