It’s no coincidence that Paolo Nutini’s hotly tipped third album, Caustic Love, was released in April. Anticipating the first rays of sunshine and the annual reach for shades, shorts, and sun cream, the singer-songwriter’s new record is soaked in funky bass lines, crooning vocals, and hip hop-esque beats that will no doubt remain on repeat all summer long.
It’s been five years since Nutini’s sophomore album, Sunny Side Up, left catchy brass hooks ricocheting round the brains of thousands of Brits, whether they liked it or not. The time has clearly been well spent. Vocally, Nutini has evolved from a competent storyteller to a modern day crooner, and he has embraced the funk sounds of Motown, New Orleans, and smokey late night bars. Musically, the killer ingredient is the strength of the songwriting throughout. Packed with addictive melodies and bass lines that wouldn’t be out of place on an Outkast album, the songs often build from just a man and his acoustic guitar to a fully blasting eight-piece band with leader, Nutini, screaming passionate lyrics of love and loss with as much swagger as soul pioneer, Sam Cooke. Stand-out tracks, Iron Sky and Better Man, exemplify Nutini’s ability to tell a story musically as well as lyrically.
Nutini’s trademark swagger that has always been present in his live shows is present throughout the album, and comes into full swing most notably in lead single, Scream (Funk My Life Up), as well as in the incredibly addictive, Fashion. He croons:
She’s got soul, she’s got class, and originality/ She’s got style and a personality/ and she wears it on her sleeve ‘cause she’s in fashion.
Fourth track, One Day, rivals Iron Sky for the best song on the record. Here, Nutini’s songwriting hits a peak with a timeless, crooning ballad that probably won’t sound outdated in thirty years time.
While Caustic Love experiments with new influences and adds variety to Nutini’s discography, the singers much adoring fan base need not worry about his departure into Blues. This is a record that is an evolution rather than a transformation. The trademark choruses and growling vocals that made him such a big name in the British music scene are still present. Better Man is filled with Paolo’s sunny vibes and will no doubt be loved by fans on this year’s festival scene. Tracks like Diana and Numpty are reminders of his debut album, These Streets. However, both songs are more developed and show signs of progression rather than regression.
Caustic Love is an album to put on in the car, leave on the record player, and save as an offline playlist on Spotify this summer. Stand-alone, it’s full of addictive songs that deserve to be enjoyed again and again. It also leaves the listener with a sense that this is only the beginning. Nutini’s music sounds revitalised, fresh, and leaves us asking for more. It’s his best album yet and you can’t help but feel that there is still better to come.