Sunday, July 10, 2022

Paolo Nutini has made his long-awaited return with extraordinary ‘Last Night In The Bittersweet’

It’s been a long, strenuous eight years since Paolo Nutini’s critically acclaimed third album ‘Caustic Love’, and in this case, time certainly does make the heart grow fonder. The hiatus has not seemed to put a dint in the artist’s stride, with his new album ‘Last Night In The Bittersweet’ being hailed for its musical successes. 

Like his previous works, this album is a mosaic of genres and inspirations, yet definitely tilts towards indie rock – sometimes verging into post-punk.

Since his 2006 breakthrough, Nutini’s vulnerability and raw instrumental styles has sometimes led him to be classified as a heartbroken lyricist. This album fights against this stereotype – with his eclectic musicality on show.

From its eccentric title, it is suggestive from the offset that this will not be a completely jolly or emotionally clear album. Instead, it volleys around feelings, rumination and thoughts to create an innately intelligent collection. 

With such anticipation for any eager listener, the opening track ‘Afterneath’ certainly sets the scene. The song sizzles into a cacophony of emotion, with an ominous build-up of strings, followed by the cries of Nutini. The emotional rawness is shocking in its delivery, compared to his sparkling folk tendencies. It certainly lets us know that this record will be full of surprises. 

There’s a lot to be loved by a variety of listeners, with many epics to be found. It’s a lengthy record, at 72 minutes, yet it’s only to hold the weight of Nutini’s influences. From Otis Redding soul to feel-good indie, the singer needs space to bounce.

This freedom to stretch his musical legs, allows a look into a Paolo Nutini we have not seen before. Including his extensive exploration of guitar, previously hidden by his powerful vocals in past albums. 

His indie characteristics, are exemplified on the epics ‘Shine A Light’ and ‘Desperation’, where he lets his hair down. Whereas, ‘Heart Filled Up’ has similarities to the ethereal musicianship of The Stone Roses.

This eccentricity is expanded in the overwhelming tension of instrumentals in tracks like ‘Acid Eyes’, where trumpet meets guitar in an overwhelming emotional climax. The brass adds a layer of poignancy to tracks which is incredibly interesting to listen to. 

Despite this exploration into the instrumentally diverse - Nutini’s famous Paisely accent stays strong, seeping in beautifully on tracks like ‘Stranded Words’. A cinematic song, mainly due to its thoughtful contemplation into life, handled with a careful lyrical sensitivity – it is rich and lush. The tenderness of the song is only enhanced by the juxtaposition of the powerful, ear-piercing screams of following track ‘Lose It’

Despite the carefree, eclectic nature of the album, there’s complexity on it that show the consideration and emotion pumped into each song. It’s poetic in that sense.

Every lyric is intelligent without being pompous, emotional without being pandering. It’s simplistic with so much nuance; dreamy, bittersweet and hopefully romantic - it’s gorgeous. 

So you can understand why it took so long to make. 

The album almost appears like a collection of short stories, with almost folk-like tales appearing in songs like ‘Children Of The Stars’ which depicts a woman of wonder and her struggles. Whereas there’s a call back to ‘Sunny Side Up’s ‘Candy’, and ‘Last Request’ off of ‘These Streets’ in the love songs like ‘Julianne’, through its nostalgic piano ballad and lullaby-like romanticism. 

It is through these pockets of stories that the listener gets the feeling that Nutini is expressing something wide and all-encompassing. Collecting all the intricacies of emotions and life, and all their moving parts in each track. 

Last Night in the Bittersweet’ is extraordinary.

Nutini has produced a consistently ambitious and musically-imposing collection of songs, although differing from his first three records, are just as strong and important.

Let’s just hope it’s not eight years until the next one!

Maia Gibbs
Image: ‘Last Night in the Bittersweet’ Official Album Cover

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