There is something deeply charming about Nerina Pallot’s voice. She has a tone that is dually soothing and poignant in a way that is slightly reminiscent of early Joni Mitchell, while still remaining distinct enough to stand out. Year Of The Wolf, her fourth album, showcases her subtle vocals and moreover the poetry in her lyrics.
The opening track and first single Put Your Hands Up sets the course for much of the album, a softly upbeat pop track which features a deftly catchy and melodious chorus. Like many of the tracks on the album it appears on first listen to be a slightly throwaway mid tempo pastiche of soft pop rock, and it’s not until leaving the album that the listener discovers that the melody has lodged itself in their brain. An interesting feature for songs which seem to disguise themselves as being rather non-committal.
Much of the same can be said of the first three tracks of the album, which all put a slight twist on the genre that they appear to masquerade as. Upon reaching fourth track If I Lost You Now, we are greeted with a taste of the melancholy to follow further on. This is a sublimely relaxed track giving off a vibe of Norah Jones, but with a lyrical content that reveals a greater level of depth than would be expected from this kind of musical venture.
Unfortunately progress of the album is hindered slightly by two tracks which allow themselves to become the mediocrity they are imitating. Butterfly and This Will Be Our Year are both perfectly pleasant, yet don’t quite reach up to the level of the rest of the album and therefore stand out for the wrong reasons.
Luckily they are quickly followed up by the insidiously catchy and relatable I Think, which pushes forward Pallot’s sense of humour to the fore and allows for a slightly confrontational anthem of self awareness. The sing-song nature of the melody gives the song a real lighthearted feel while the lyrics offer a ballsy chant which doubtless will work well in a live setting.
Will You Still Love Me and I Do Not Want What I Do Not Have both suffer slightly from the familiar failings of not appearing quite on par with many of the albums’ other tracks, although not quite to the same extent as This Will Be Our Year. Fortunately both of these tracks seem to redeem themselves mid-track with a few moments of pop pleasure, yet sadly fail to quite make the standard of the more memorable tracks.
The album’s final two tracks Grace and History Boys both take a more serious turn at the melancholy in a richly pleasurable way, and are both suitable for the more miserable playlists that are reserved for moments of wallowing. History Boys especially offers an incredibly intricate and absorbing three and a half minutes of sheer melancholic bliss, without at all coming across as being self-indulgent.
Year Of The Wolf as a whole stands as a quiet hero amongst the singer/songwriter genre, offering a glimmer of hope in a too often dull territory, and whilst a few tracks fail to quite live up to this ethos, for the most part the album is a pleasure.