Nerina Pallot – “The Sound and the Fury”

Grade: A-

Key Tracks: “There is a Drum,” “Rousseau”

The phrase “The Sound and the Fury” has a history deep in death. Macbeth first utters the phrase in a soliloquy in Act V, after learning of the death of his lady. And, more famously, William Faulkner adapted it as the title for what is arguably his most well-known novel. It doesn’t necessarily work for any real context on Nerina Pallot’s fifth studio album, but it does separate her from other singers. Pallot, by definition a singer-songwriter, incorporates more music (Sound) and darker themes (Fury) into her music than her contemporaries. “Fury,” like her previous albums, is filled start to finish with memorable songs, each brimming with Pallot’s devotion to making every moment unique.

The album’s opening is indicative of her music as a whole. “There is a Drum” starts with a half-minute of pretty, dreamy guitar before stopping completely and giving way to a haunting, disproportionately-loud horn that sounds like it came from the mountains of Tibet. It sets the tone for the album – two parts melodic, one part dark, and filled with music. “Drum” and later track “Spirit Walks” handle inspiration and music from other cultures, a thin line that British native Pallot walks largely with respect.

Other musical highlights on the album include the previously released “Rousseau,” a slower song centered on a steady, picked guitar line that might not sound out of place in an older Coldplay song (alternately – speed it up and it’s almost ska-like). “The Road,” the album’s other single besides “Rousseau,” has a long musical outro that highlights Pallot’s reliance on a full package, not just her. “Boy on the Bus” has a unique, wavey sound, and closer “The Longest Memory” ends the album on a strong musical note (no pun intended).

Most of the album’s songs were released last year. Pallot released an EP a month in 2014, and put the fan-voted best tracks on “Fury,” plus a few new songs. A busy Pallot released 60 songs last year, and this album serves somewhat as a highlights package. But it is cohesive; you wouldn’t even know this borders as a collection. Musically and lyrically, it maintains a tone but each song shoots off of it in a different direction. Some songs are full in sound, some intentionally restrained. Pallot’s earlier releases generally match “Fury” in both tone and quality. Pallot hasn’t broken in America yet; in fact, she’s barely spoken in whispers. I don’t know why this is. Pallot probably isn’t bothered by it. But for me, that’s my “Fury.”

If you like this, try: MisterWives debut, “Our Own House.” It’s got less substance, but it’s also an inherently great and diverse indie-folk work.

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