Let us get the big question out of the way early. Nerina Pallot’s third studio album, The Graduate is her best to date, no doubt about it.
It would be hard for any artist to match the quality of Pallot’s sophomore release, Fires, but she doesn’t do that. She surpasses it by some margin – this is an assured release. Each individual track is overflowing with wonderful lyrics, accomplished musical skill and more comment than most others would struggle to fit into their entire music catalogues – yet she does it with such an angelic, sweet voice that you can’t help but find yourself pulled into the music and getting lost in a kaleidoscope of sounds that refuse to let you free. Musically, The Graduate is undoubtedly more adventurous than the singer’s previous albums; she has put together a more layered sound and whilst it’s not a sonic assault, there has definitely been far more thought and work put into the incidentals. Thankfully, she still sits snuggly alongside the likes of Rachael Yamagata or Thea Gilmore – there has obviously been no temptation to become overblown. Her strengths are as a singer/songwriter, but here the music has come much more to the fore than in the past.
Every track here will already be familiar to fans; they’ve all had plenty of exposure via YouTube and through Nerina’s live shows. What were great individual songs take on a different depth now that we get to hear the in all of their produced glory. The album is a cohesive whole that draws on Nerina’s life experiences – each three minute song is a story that offers significance and poignance. The album really benefits from a much more positive outlook too – there isn’t anything here that has quite the same bitterness that Mr King had on her last album.
There are obvious highlights – current single, Real Late Starter, really is a pinnacle in Nerina’s musical output to date. Another, Human strips back to the basics with a gorgeous guitar track sitting perfectly with a song that manages to be both heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. The most meaningful song though has to be English – unfortunately only available on certain editions of the album, such as the iTunes release. This beautiful track tackles Nerina’s Indian mother’s experiences on arriving in England and is as valid now as it was when she arrived here.
It’s not all heavy-weight though! I Don’t Want To Go Out is a great little track – it doesn’t have huge amounts to say but it balances well with some of the more philosophical stuff. There is a lot her that is personal too – we get glimpses into Nerina’s life and relationships just as we would if we were watching her life through a series of vignettes. You get the feeling that she’s laying who and what she is out for all to see and this openness holds an appeal that is hard to describe.