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ADRIAN THRILLS: Return of Paolo Nutini, the prodigal pop star

Paolo Nutini: Last Night In The Bittersweet (Atlantic Ocean)

Rating: rating showbiz 3

Verdict: strong, if erratic, return

Regina Spektor: Home, Before and After (Warner)

Rating: rating showbiz 5

Verdict: where the heart is

The day someone comes up with a prize for the slowest man in music, Paolo Nutini is on the shortlist.

Unaware of the commercial imperatives that so many singer-songwriters spur on, he moves at his own leisurely pace.

His latest album is his first in over eight years. The Glaswegian is a rarity – a leading pop star who is seemingly devoid of ego. Since topping the charts in 2014 with his third album, Caustic Love, he has reportedly written hundreds of songs that he has kept to himself, raising fears that his indifference to fame and fortune could lead him to reveal his considerable talent. squander.

At the age of 35, he still has some catching up to do. Since we last heard from him, his more motivated colleagues have built lucrative careers. George Ezra has released three albums and Ed Sheeran, the epitome of a highly driven artist, four.

The day someone comes up with a prize for the slowest man in music, Paolo Nutini is on the shortlist

The day someone comes up with a prize for the slowest man in music, Paolo Nutini is on the shortlist

A lack of ambition should not be confused with a lack of ability, and Nutini throws everything – sometimes too much – into this comeback. In addition to his usual blue-eyed soul ballads, there’s buzzing electronics and thumping, industrial rock.

It’s a record that dispels any idea that he wants to be a pop-pin-up.

At first, you even start to wonder if he has completely abandoned his senses.

Opener Afterneath is a sloppy mix of pounding cymbals and howling vocals. It’s not a promising start, but he’s soon back on familiar ground with soft rocker Radio and tender ballad Through The Echoes.

When he first tasted success in 2006, Nutini was described as an old voice on young shoulders.

His raspy tone has been compared to Rod Stewart and Joe Cocker. Now, 16 years later, he has gained more experience and his singing, especially on the ballads, is even more creepy.

Over 70 sprawling minutes, Last Night In The Bittersweet, a double album in all but name, darts between styles.

Lose It, which uses the electronic beats of 1970s German bands like Can and Neu! revives, seems to be tackling his time outside the spotlight: ‘I could not found a way out of my Concerned Mind’, he sings.

“The feeling of being left behind brought me down.” There’s also some Cure-esque indie pop on the catchy Petrified In Love, and a lovely Johnny Cash-esque country ballad in Abigail.

On Shine A Light, he returns to the arena rock dynamics of U2’s The Unforgettable Fire. After being gone for so long, it’s like trying to cram four different albums into one.

Such variety is admirable, but it also makes for a scattergun approach. It’s only towards the end of the album where he delivers a series of beautifully crafted ballads – some acoustic; others build in large orchestrations – that Last Night In The Bittersweet flows with real coherence.

Regina Spektor's eighth album, it dwarfs a bit of her old quirkiness in favor of songs with warmth and heart

Regina Spektor’s eighth album, it dwarfs a bit of her old quirkiness in favor of songs with warmth and heart

Regina Spektor was never easy to pin down. The Russian-American singer was born in Moscow but lived in New York for 33 years and became synonymous with the rock scene of her adopted hometown after supporting The Strokes.

Since then, she has made her mark on Broadway and has become a mainstay of TV and movie soundtracks. Among her celebrity admirers are Peter Gabriel, who covered her song Après Moi, and Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.

What’s missing, at least in this country, is the mainstream pop success that her songwriting flair and fluid piano playing deserve. Home, Before And After may be the record to change that.

Her eighth album, it dwarfs a bit of her old quirkiness in favor of songs with warmth and heart.

Spektor, 42, is sometimes characterized by her eccentricities: previous party pieces have included mimicking the sound of a trumpet and perfecting (on the 2009 Folding Chair) an impression of a singing dolphin.

There are some typically whimsical twists and turns here. Loveology casts her as a school teacher specializing in porcupine logy and antler ology.

Becoming All Alone finds her singing of a chance encounter with God, whom she encounters while walking home alone. The Almighty suggests going for a beer (“We didn’t even have to pay because God is God and he is worshipped”).

She is also a refined, highly original performer. Beneath its bizarre storyline, Becoming All Alone is a powerful song about loneliness.

Up The Mountain looks for answers in the natural world

Elsewhere, Spacetime Fairytale is a jazzy nine-minute suite about the mysteries of the universe, and Coin an inventive ballad about the contrasting outcomes of giving money to a shaman, a president, a scientist, and a baby (the latter ‘swallowed the whole thing’). by means of’) ‘).

She calls for a wider hearing.

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