Paolo Nutini – Sunny Side Up

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Photo: Kevin Westenberg

By Pico

A year ago I broke with my unusual protocol and included a “non-new” album in a Quickies piece.
These Streets by Paolo Nutini had already been out for a couple of years by that time, but the debut album by this exceptionally talented teenaged singer-songwriter from Scotland had to be evangelized. After all, “voices like Nutini’s come around just a few times in a generation,” said the New York Daily News. He also showed an ability to craft catchy melodies that are compelling, timeless and soulful. And the kid seems so oblivious to trends. You should know that coming from this site, such a statement is the ultimate compliment.

In spite of all the great things about that album (one of the very few pop albums I’ve gotten excited about anytime recently), there was still a sense that Nutini hadn’t come close to hitting the ceiling of his potential yet. Knowing that only added to the eagerness to find what he’ll do for his next album. That, plus being signed to a major label such as Atlantic Records undoubtedly only added to the pressure on Nutini. Earlier this week came that long-anticipated follow-up, Sunny Side Up, and now we get to see if that dreaded sophomore slump was avoided.

I gotta admit, on the first listen I wasn’t sure if the kid avoided the jinx. I was expecting more of the James Taylor-meets-pub rock brand of music that made up much of the character of his first album. There’s little of that to be found in Sunny. That’s not at all to say that Nutini sold out and made a record of slick, 21st century pop. Oh no, he went further in the opposite direction: whereas These Streets could have sounded comfortable thirty years ago, much of Sunny Side Up would sound right at home among music of forty years ago or earlier.

Stylistically, however, is where the Big Step Forward occurs. Every song may be of a forties, fifties, or sixties vintage, but not one songs sounds anything like another (and far removed from Streets, for that matter), save for Nutini’s golden pipes. None of this ever sounds like a collection empty genre exercises, because the rendering is homegrown and sincere, and sympathetically arranged. It doesn’t matter if Nutini and his Vipers band perform ska (“10/10”), Cab Calloway swing (“Pencil Full of Lead”), Stax (“Coming Up Easy”) or Scottish-flavored Dylan (“Tricks Of The Trade”), there’s a genuine aspect to it all, and it begins with Nutini’s melodically sensitive, wise-beyond-his-years croon.

The advance single selected from this album is “Candy” (see video below), which is an exceptional choice. It’s a breezy, country song that’s sublime in its simplicity: just a repeating figure that doesn’t challenge Nutini’s golden voice but he nevertheless manages to wring a subtley affecting, genuine vocal performance from it.

“Candy” is a love paean, an old topic, but here is another area where Nutini elevated his game: the lyrics are sophisticated without the cuteness and like the music, retain a timeless, classic trait that sounds good now and will sound vital decades years from now. Even on the brief, unassuming skiffle of “Simple Things” he offers up solid lines like:

If you love the life you live/then you’ll get a lot more done
Be more inclined to take the reins/than turn away and run

“Growing Up Beside You” is another highlight, with its dreamy melody, heavenly harmonies and a well-placed accordion that sounds just right for this country-folk tune. “Chamber Music” is a two part song that begins with Nutini’s voice and his acoustic guitar alone before transitioning into richer sounding guitars and a whistle from the Scottish Highlands that makes for a soothing instrumental interlude.

“Coming Up Easy” is one of the sweatier numbers, but Nutini himself doesn’t break a sweat until the concluding round of choruses, and when he does, it’s like Wilson Pickett back from the dead. “No Other Way” is a ballad that goes back to pre-Beatles rock and roll where Nutini belts it with the passion and conviction of Dion in his prime.

By the way, all of these ditties were written or cowritten by Nutini. Not bad work at all for a twenty-two year old. Sunny Side Up might be targeted at people 2 or 3 times Paolo Nutini’s age, but perhaps it takes a young feller like him to show his generation that there’s a lot of virtue in the music of their grandparents. And with the impressive start this Scot got off to with his first two albums, his music should be much more likely to be remembered when he becomes a grandparent himself than the multitude of his American Idol-oriented contemporaries. We can only hope.

You can find several more Sunny Side Up-related videos on Paolo’s website.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on,, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at
S. Victor Aaron
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