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I see every review of this album on Dooyoo so far has given it five stars and I think they are well deserved - it gets five stars from me too!
Nerina Pallot is a British singer and musician who I would say is a natural talent. She plays piano, guitar, violin and has also studied opera. After some less successful attempts to make it, she eventually brought this album out on her own record label, Idaho. I just read a piece of trivia about her on her Spotify biography which I found unbelievable, so I will share that too: she was dropped from her first label after she became the butt of people's jokes when Faye from Steps shoved her off the sofa on Live & Kicking, the old Saturday morning TV show! I found this quite funny, seeing how pushy Faye from Steps is if anyone is watching the show "Steps on the Road Again" on Sky about the Steps reunion tour, but anyway! Safe to say Nerina Pallot's music is nothing like the style of Steps.
=== Tracklist ===
Everybody's Gone To War
Learning To Breathe
All Good People
=== Atmosphere of the album ===
I love this whole album. It is full of absolute gems and I listen to it all without skipping. I have been known to play this album quite a few times in a row and my dad also loves it and borrows it off me.
Nerina Pallot has a voice which is so easy to listen to, powerful but nice and smooth. She can sing with power without having to screech and warble in the slightest. Fires is quite a poppy album and contains a mix of extremely catchy, quite upbeat and feel good songs such as Idaho or All Good People and slower more subdued but lovely songs like Mr King and Sophia.
In my opinion this is definitely Nerina Pallot's best album. Her more recent album Year of The Wolf is good and has a few great songs on it, but Fires definitely had much more instant appeal for me. Fires is very accessible and I really liked it from the first listen. I still really like it now quite a few years later, so it stands the test of time for me.
=== Best songs? ===
It is difficult to pick favourites on this album because it is so strong throughout but a few do deserve a special mention.
Geek Love is a gorgeous song. It is has a lovely subtle melody. The lyrics are simple but I like them, such as "hey you, could you give it a rest, just take me home, come on and get me undressed, put on the fire, and make it enough, oh we're geeks but we know this is love". We then realise that the two people don't actually know anything about each other.
I also really love the song Mr King, which I think is about Nerina's teacher at school. This is a slow one with a thoughtful and soft atmosphere. Nerina's clear vocals are accompanied by the piano. She sings about how she saw life then and now, such as "Now I see, Mr King, it was in the books you gave me which I read disbelieving, thinking poets are depressed. Oh Mr King, I have changed, I confess".
Of the upbeat songs on the album I am not sure which I like best as they are all good, but Everybody's Gone To War starts off the album really well and gives you a hint of the style to come. The song is about war and wondering what the point of it is, so shows that her upbeat and poppy songs do have a bit more substance than some of the pop which you usually hear in the charts. She has more intelligent and thoughtful lyrics than many.
=== Recommended? ===
I would definitely recommend this album with no hesitation.
I would especially recommend it to fans of singers like Michelle Branch, Anna Nalick, Thea Gilmore, Gemma Hayes... or anyone who likes good female vocalists with a bit more substance.
Nerina Pallot first entered my life after I stumbled upon a video of her performing her song "Idaho" on solo piano. To say I was left moved would be an understatement. As almost all music fans do, I couldn't help associating my real life situations with the ones Pallot was so earnestly spreading on the table, and her suggestions of "Driving, driving to Idaho" to get away from everything and start afresh resonated with me a hundred fold.
The 'girl and her piano' image, which inevitably draws comparisons to the incredible Tori Amos and Kate Bush, has seemed to fade out in recent years, with the niche success of acts like Regina Spektor (a fantastically quirky singer/songwriter) sometimes poking their head above the music industries water. However, Nerina, who was trained classically on piano, has contributed significantly to the return of this music genre, which just happens to be one of my favourites. Pallot has a mastery over the keys which many of us lesser pianists can only dream of having and her control of the piano, guitar and her own vocals produced one of the most beautiful sounding records of 2006; Fires is, in my opinion, the best music release that year.
But it's not just a sonic success. The thought that has gone into the lyrics, all of which Pallot wrote herself, is really a testament to this most hardworking musician. Nerina had relative success with her much misunderstood debut "Dear Frustrated Superstar", but after criticising her record label, was unceremoniously dropped from the accused record label. After mortgaging her own house to pay for the production of Fires, Pallot emerged form this situation, that would have caused many musicians to simply give up, with a truly incredible second album, which was received so well by critics and audience alike that the first record label sheepishly began pressing copies of "Dear Frustrated Superstar" again, much, one can only hope, to Pallot's smugness.
The songs on this record are poignant and thoughtful, with nuggets of wisdom, intellect and regret wrapped in melodies and song structures so wonderful that the listening of the album feels like an emotional journey. From its jaded first track to its slightly melancholy end, Fires smacks you with lyrics which sometimes hits you right in the heart "I don't wanna be the last, don't wanna be the first, don't wanna be alone with my thoughts tomorrow" and sometimes in the head "I've got a friend he's a pure bred killing machine, I think he might be dead by Christmas". Nerina's degree in English (which she ironically began during her hiatus from the music scene between DFS and Fires) is reflected wonderfully in her mastery of the language, and her ability to seemingly twist and manipulate it to fit her ever so eloquent needs.
It is hard to fit such a diverse range of sounds into one real genre. I would for the sake of clarity, class Fires as adult alternative. From commercial pop "Everybody's gone to war" to a more alternative sound "Geek Love" and with many different layers which would demand a certain level of maturity to fully enjoy, Fires is a difficult album to put in a box. And why would you want to? Its frantic refusal to comply with musical conventions, and its unabashed originality is what makes Fires so accessible, enjoyable, and for the misunderstood souls among us (me included, hey, we're all friends here right?) so relatable. Pallot takes us on a journey of poignancy, discovery, and recovery, with the occasional love reference here and there. Pallot is completely endearing to each and every listener, no one I have played this record to has voiced any dislike of her, whilst almost all have gone on to purchase copies of her music themselves.
Be warned, the addiction factor may well come into play here. Like with the recent album "Lungs" by the incredible Florence + the Machine, once this album has got its hands on you, you may not want to turn it off, and you may quickly find yourself cursing the relatively short running time of just over 45 minutes. And it isn't simply because of the wonderful melodies and the heartfelt lyrics, but the simply overwhelming character that Pallot puts into each and every song, giving each one a landscape and personality of its own.
What is clear with this record is that the girl and her piano can still be considered a classic, as shown by the standout track "Sofia". Nerina writes with such personality, such grace and, at times, heartbreak, that it becomes a challenge to NOT be moved by her songs. And then there's her voice. One of the greatest voices of our age, pure and simple. She sings as if it is second nature to her, and with such a clear and moving voice, who could resist Fires?
Whilst her previous record label may well be kicking themselves, we can breathe a sigh of relief, as it would have been a huge loss to the contemporary music scene if Pallot had been discouraged by their almost heinous actions. Nerina stands strong as proof that hard work and belief, as well as some mean piano-skills, can shape a seemingly burnt out musician into one of the most revered and brilliant one's about today. Just beautiful.
Track by track anyone?
1) Everybody's Gone To War-A belter of an opener, and the most successful single off of the album. The first track of Fires opens with a heavy and catchy guitar riff, and the song itself, whilst oddly uplifting, is a direct criticism of the war we are currently involved in. Pallot unashamedly voices her outrage at her belief her friend "will be dead by Christmas" in a song which is both thoughtful, and an example of how pop songs can be politically relevant. Protest in musical form. 8/10
2) Halfway Home-One of my favourites. A nostalgic song about returning to place you call home, and those who are waiting there when you go. This is a very cute song, and the melancholy that is present in a lot of the album hasn't quite made its mark yet, as Pallot happily sings about how "It's a wonder that I'm standing on my own two feet". Cryptic lyrics, harking back to those of Tori Amos creep their way into play here, after the commercially relevant opener "In the shadow of a thousand pale Victorian goodbyes, jewels of litter come to greet me and it stings my eyes" 9/10
3) Damascus- A slow, dark and discontented track follows the upbeat-ness of "Halfway Home", in a song that will grow on you after each listen if you don't immediately love it. The theme of giving up on faith and hope will resonate with many "It's over, and I don't want to fight", and with such a message, this song is the first of its kind on Fires, but its deep seated melancholy is presented in such an incredible way, with the wonderful riff at the beginning and the clever lyrics "Depression is only desire deprived", that the song is sure to be a favourite 10/10
4) Idaho- This song is simply incredible. There are no more words to describe it. It is a sin that it is not more widely credited because it is a masterpiece. The crucial piano riff, the crashing violins, the soothing chorus and the scathing verses; it's a master class in song writing in itself. Nerina's anthem of getting up and leaving always resonates with some deep seated sentiment in me, and I think it does with most people. The desire to start afresh in a beautiful place is a dark fantasy we all return to in our time of need, and this song, beautiful and devastating as it is, reflects this perfectly. Just incredible. 10.5/10
5) Learning to Breath- the breath after the storm of Idaho, (wow, I really didn't even mean to make that pun!) carries on with the slightly dark theme now adopted, but the song, which is in a major key, feels much more upbeat than Idaho and Damascus, and is certainly more hopeful. A lovely instrumental after the bridge heralds the brilliant chorus, and frames this as a gem which is often overshadowed by its predecessor. 7/10
6) Mr King- The most un-accessible for some on the record. The strange sounding synth which introduces the main riff sets the abstract tone of the song, and the odd, cryptic lyrics make this an almost unsettling track, but one of my favourites nonetheless. A quirky and unstructured oddity, the originality reflects the uniqueness of Fires itself, and is homage to Pallot's 'outside of the box' song writing abilities. 9/10
7) Geek Love - A scathing love song (bet you didn't know love songs could be scathing huh?) which is actually one of the best songs ion the album. An unforgettable chorus "Hey you, could you give it a rest? Just take me home, come on, and get me undressed!" with the odd main piano riff makes this a sure favourite, and the imagery that Pallot employs throughout is just brilliant 10/10
8) Sofia - If a song has ever been described as beautiful, it holds nothing to Sofia. A beautiful and moving track which features just Pallot and her trusty piano, Sofia slows the pace of the album to a poignant ballad, and is the most heart braking and touching songs on Fires. The radio friendly single version, with the added drums and guitars, hold nothing to the stark beauty of this original version, and is one of those songs you just HAVE to listen to, again and again. Beauty at its most musical. 10/10
9) All Good People- my least favourite on this record, perhaps because of its unenviable task of following Sofia. Whilst the chorus is catchy and the lyrics are endearing, it just doesn't deliver like all the tracks before it has. Still, a solid pop song, but on that is slightly misplaced on this otherwise epic album. 6/10
10) Heart Attack - The resounding opening of this track puts the album right back on the right path towards its conclusion, and this riveting and exciting penultimate track doesn't contain any indication of Fires' poignant closer. Heart Attack contains an uplifting and exhilarating chorus "I'm gonna bring it on oh, it's a heart attack, a heart attack!" and is the final belter of the album. 9/10
11) Nikindia - a sad, touching, and melancholy closet to a brilliant album. Exploring the themes of death and loneliness, it is a sweeping epic which can only be described and understood by the listening of it. An incredible closet to a simply incredible album. 10/10
Follow up album; The Graduate-2009
Nerina Pallot is probably best known for her popular song 'Everybody's Going to War'. I instantly loved this song and bought her album. Now, this song is one of my least favourite - and only because I love all the other songs so much!
Pallot is the definition of under appreciated. Suckers for lyrics will adore her musings ('Five o'clock and a fire escape symphony') and those who adore melodic genius will find their fix in any of Pallot's beautiful piano based tracks (Idaho's opening, for example).
Fires also has that a lovely cohesive quality that many albums lack. This cohesiveness, however, does not created a stilted or repetitive atmosphere. Pallot ranges from dirges such as Nickindia to up tempo (yet surprisingly poignant) songs like All Good People. In this album you will find a song for every mood - and each song will create in you a new mood.
This album is in my top five albums of all time and not a day goes by that I do not listen to one of Pallot's songs. Her original quirkiness and song writing skills displayed in her debut album, Dear Frustrated Superstar, are honed perfectly here into a perfectly formed, gut wrenchingly beautiful, awe (and envy) inspiring collection of eleven songs.
Like many others i had never heard of this artist untill recently-then "everyone's gone to war" started being played on the radio and i thought "who is this girl....?"-more so when i learnt this was her second album!!!!
Browsing through the paper i discovered she was doing an acoustic set at my local borders and that a gig in norwich that night was unfortunately sold out.Knowing i had to be in the city that day anyway,i decided to go and see her perform live at borders and was really impressed.Usually it would be just her and her guitar on her tour round thee bookshop sets but because her gig later was a sell-out,for norwich she was accompanied by a string quartet so fans could get a taste of her performance later-not scince i saw beth orton at the uea recently have i been so entranced.Nerena herself was bubbly,fun and so obviously passionate about her music and,although she only did 3 songs,was a real crowd pleaser-for the short time she played there was a real positive buzz as new and old fans united in their mutual pleasure.she even stayed around and signed copies of this,her latest album and i was fortunte enough to get a few words with her as well as a signed copy of fires.lucky me!!
so-to the album which opens with the single "everyone's gone to war"-an upbeat,poppy tune which hides a serious sentiment;a tone closely followed by the rest of the tracks on this tremendous album.many of the songs contain poignant lyrics,a strong narrative or subtle message whilst still being catchy and melodious.Its a real treat to hear something this good and,as i mentioned,is very simlar in style to the great Beth Orton though this material seems less moody than Beth's latest work,the comfort of strangers-an equally fantastic album.
I do think her material is better heard acoustically rather than through a studio album but this is only a slight comment as there is plenty of good strong tracks to get your teeth into."Halfway home" and "Learning to breathe" are enchanted numbers that would not look out of place on Natalie Imbruglia's latest album,whilst "Road to Idaho" has small moments of Kate Bushness to it."Sophia" is an enchanting,haunting track with real emotion and "all good people" is very reminiscent of the likes of Sheryl Crow.I almost get the feeling that this is the kind of album that someone with the staying power of Kylie could have made were she not quite so pop-chart based but then the pop-charts is what her career has always been about and her few experiments into diffrent types of music have never been that well recieved .
My favourites are two of the tracks i saw Nerena perform live-
"mr.king" about a good friend she describes as "the only intelligent person i know in the music business" who has a tendency to give her books of obscure poetry and
the uplifting final song "nickindia" though the whole album is a rare treat-lets hope this time round Nerena
becomes more successful which judging from the praise she has so far critically recieved she rightfully looks to be achieving.Deserves to be so much more bigger than she is-buy this album and you'll see for yourself what you have been missing-theres something for everyone here!!
About a year or so ago I was introduced to Nerina Pallot, not in the flesh mores the pity but via her latest CD. Id never heard of her until my friend thrust the said CD into my hand and said, "You have got to listen to this". Now my friend Simon, for it is he, has discerning musical taste and past experience has proved that if he says I need to listen to an artist that I have been hitherto unaware of, I should do just that. Again he proved to me that he knows what I like in music better than I do myself, and Nerina Pallot is an artist that I should have known about years ago. I did a bit of research regarding the artist I question which I will share with you before I get down to the music. The first thing I found is that she is a difficult women to find out anything about, her record label run official website is selling its space and contains no real information, NME has almost nothing to say and a handful of fan sites are similarly quiet. I finally managed to discover that she is Australian, but had a nomadic upbringing and she is now based in the UK, Brixton no less. She is about thirty and this is the second album, the first being, 2002`s Dear Frustrated Superstar.
Just to bring this review up to date, both albums are being re-released and someone has finally realised the potential of Nerina and decided to push her music.After too long in the wilderness her singles are being pushed onto mainstream radio and it would seem that one of those pony tailed, red-braces, besuited recorded executives has actual realised that Pop Idol wanabes are not the be all and end all of popular music and taken his head from out of his whatsit and developed a modicum of sense.
In an age when most female singers can only find fame in that cheesy girl band format that is more about selling your sex appeal than your talent, Nerina proves that you can be both attractive and musically talented. She is a singer songwriter in the same vein as Carole King, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Tori Amos and cites the likes of Steely Dan as a direct influence. She has opened for Sheryl Crow (who is too easy a comparison) and Semisonic and has also collaborated with Canadian band Delirium. So on to the album, Fires.
The album opens with the most Crow-esque number, Everybody's Gone to War and makes a strong anti war statement with very simple language and in its use of words it is reminiscent of Joan Osborne's, If God Was One of Us. Musically it is an upbeat acoustic guitar driven infectious number that Sheryl herself would probably kill for. Halfway Home follows with a more Alanis Morrissette feel to it, heavy on the groove but more laidback This is also a song that you feel fellow antipodean, Ms Imbuglia is dying to be given, accessible to the pop market but with its integrity intact, serious messages in a light package is what seems to be going on her. Each song seems to invoke a range of female singers but there is still enough of her own ability shining through to make this singer songwriter more than just this years Tanita Tikarum. Damascus also released first time around as a single,like the track that follows Idaho, is an introverted reflective vocally glorious ballad. Although the up beat tracks such as the opener and All Good People are great songs, what Nerina does best is the more laidback numbers, Geek Love and Nickindia being the finest moments, haunting vocals over minimal accompaniment to deliver some great "less is more" attitude to the songs.
As I said, references spring to mind with frightening regularity as you listen to the album, and for a relatively unknown artist the quality of the work is outstanding. Those who are looking for something exceptional amongst the current wave of girl singers can forget Melua, Carlton and whatever Dido's surname is and head straight for Fires, it's a fire that will be burning bright for many years to come.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Everybody's Gone To War
2 Halfway Home
5 Learning To Breathe
6 Mr King
7 Geek Love
9 All Good People
10 Heart Attack