Confident and well formed, this is an angsty album that avoids a lot of the trappings of Americana, but remains a rewarding listen.
“Every weekend ends like this / We fuck, we fight, you yell, I cry, we kiss / Too drunk to remember how it started / So we start it all again each Friday night,” opens Nate Paladino on ‘Problems in Bed’, the first track on his second full length album. If those lyrics alone aren’t evidence enough, Paladino has stated that he’s not interested in telling easy, pretty stories: “The more perfect the picture is, the more blind we can be to the emptiness and despondency behind it. I like exploring the cracks in the veneer and giving the messier details their due.”
There’s something very 90s “college radio” familiar about Paladino’s voice (think R.EM or The Pixies with a side of Leonard Cohen) with his conversational Californian delivery and barely concealed mirth, but it works in its uniqueness. “Cause when you’ve got sorrows to drown / And none of your friends are around / You come and drown them me,” he offers dryly on the drunken saloon bar rambler of a title track. Things predictably aren’t looking up much on ‘A Sad Song’ with Paladino lamenting: “Cause nothing makes a sad song like you baby / Nothing else can make me feel so small / You were making eyes on some tall stranger /And I was in the room and saw it all.”
‘In the Meantime’ sees Paladino wrestle with a classic love-hate relationship over a jangly piano: “God I hate the bags around your eyes / When you’ve been crying / Over some new way I made you feel like dirt […] But God I love your smile in the meantime / Before I come and turn things upside down.” On ‘Nothing Good’, Paladino wrestles with the end of a relationship knowing he should have seen it all coming, a point he drives home with the particularly sharp statement: “I should have paid attention / To your words instead of your lips”.
There’s a real dark bitterness to ‘In the Ground’, the vitriol pouring out from Paladino as he sings on the chorus: “And your face / Keeps me warm at night / In your frame / With the moon in your eyes / And your scent / On my pillow still / And your body / In the ground.” But there’s a hint of sad sweetness there too, evidenced when he later adds: “Hell, maybe we weren’t right for each other / But someday I’ll marry and father a child / And wish that you were his mother.”
While the title of ‘Blue Skies and Mai Tais’ may sounds initially sunny, it’s lyrical content reveals that it’s really about using some time in the sun to get over someone (“Your memory’s as faded / As the linen of my shirt / So I think I’ll spend some time / With women that don’t make me hurt”). ‘Your Lips Kissing Him’ sees Paladino at his most bitter – which is saying a lot for an album full of angry breakup songs with titles like ‘Hate You More’ – as he growls: “Tired of secret texts at one AM / After putting him to sleep / Tired of hearing you break down / And telling me your his to keep”.
In a lot of ways, this album feels more indie pop-rock than anything, but the songwriting coupled with the twang of a guitar here and there sufficiently tips it over into the realms of Americana. Having said that, if it’s gentle folk or anything bluegrass heavy you’re after, this may not be the album for you. But if you’re willing to listen a little outside the box, you’ll find that Paladino has more than enough talent to keep his head clear above the water.