Paolo Nutini: Last Night in the Bittersweet — A more grown-up approach

Album review: The Scottish musician returns with a sprawling album of slowburning charm

Last Night in the Bittersweet
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Artist: Paolo Nutini
Genre: Alternative
Label: Atlantic Records

Paolo Nutini’s journey from the streets of Paisley in Glasgow to the world stage has certainly been an interesting one — but where has he been for the past few years? Aside from an acquittal in a drink-driving case in 2017, the husky-voiced Scottish singer has kept a low profile; you’d be forgiven for thinking he had packed it all in and gone to work for his family’s fish and chip shop.

His fourth album answers that question, although not particularly succinctly. Returning after an unofficial six-year hiatus, those who had perhaps pegged him as a schmoozy balladeer or a teen idol will have their heads turned by the sprawling spectrum of sounds on this collection. At 16 songs and 70 minutes, it’s far too long, but as hinted at on 2016′s Caustic Love, he firmly moves away from the saccharine gloop of early hits such as Last Request and the poppy frivolity of New Shoes.

There’s no immediate gratification to be found here. At first, this album comes across as a patchwork collection of songs, although further listens reveal that there’s method to his madness. This is a love album through and through, although his romantic roadmap is haphazard — be it the dawning realisation of new love on Radio, the exploration of his own aching vulnerability of Acid Eyes, or the unabashed heart-baring emotion of Everywhere, Shine a Light and Take Me Take Mine.

His lyric sheet may be easy to decipher, but the music is slightly less predictable. Opener Afterneath sets the tone perfectly, an audio clip from the film True Romance playing against a backdrop of Led Zeppelin-style atmospheric cymbals and Nutini’s Robert Plant-esque wailing. His puts his voice to better use on the sumptuous swinging soul of Everywhere and standout track Through the Echoes. Various elements of the 1970s make their mark (the krautrock-influenced Lose It, the Fleetwood Mac stylings of Children of the Stars, the Chicago-esque piano pop balladry of Julianne). So too do the 1980s: Shine a Light suggests he’s been listening to both Springsteen and U2 on heavy rotation. Then there are the folky numbers: the plucked-and-strummed Abigail sounds like a tribute to Don McLean or Cat Stevens, while interlude Stranded Words sounds like a lilting old folk paean, the echoey shudder of drums pattering in the background.


On paper, it sounds like it really shouldn’t work; it’s both too long and too musically disjointed to be memorable. Yet somehow, by throwing away the “pop star” handbook, Nutini ekes out a slowburning charm to these songs, despite the risk.

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy is a freelance journalist and broadcaster. She writes about music and the arts for The Irish Times