A couple of years ago I stumbled across a copy of Nerina's 2002 debut Dear Frustrated Superstar in the bargain bins. It had an interesting cover and I'm a sucker for female singer-songwriters, so it seemed worth a punt. Unfortunately it never quite pushed my buttons and eventually found its way back into the second-hand racks.
In truth Superstar wasn't a bad album, but it desperately lacked hooks. Not so Fires, which is getting a major label release following a plethora of rave reviews since being released on Nerina's DIY Idaho label in 2005. The transformation is remarkable. In the interim since Superstar, Nerina has matured as both a writer and a performer, clearly taking a cue from the headlining acts she's supported like Joseph Arthur, Suzanne Vega, Missy Higgins and Sheryl Crow.
Fires is produced by Howard Willing (Smashing Pumpkins), Wendy Melvoin (Prince) and Eric Rosse (Tori Amos). It falls squarely into Sheryl Crow, Tori Amos and Missy Higgins territory. And, to cut to the chase, with the exception of Missy Higgins exceptional debut, Fires is far better than any of the recent output from the aforementioned artists.
It's an album that you will want to listen to time, after time, after time. It gets stronger with every play and there are a number of reasons for that - the strength of the song writing, the breadth of styles on offer and the wonderful deliveries.
Too many artists make the mistake of adopting a singular pace that makes one track blur into another. But Nerina shows she's no one trick pony - there are melancholy ballads Sheryl Crow would die for (Damascus, Geek Love), beautiful quirky piano-dominated numbers that would grace Tori Amos's catalogue (Sophia, Idaho, Heart Attack), pop rock par excellence (Everybody's Gone To War, Learning To Breath, All Good People) and fantastic songs that are just, well - Nerina Pallot (the stunningly dreamy Nickindia, and the delicate Mr King).
There's no two ways about it - Fires is a triumph. And with the right exposure Nerina could well be the next global superstar.