To be a singer songwriter that can produce an album of good material is a great thing, but what I admire more is the good songwriter that’s not afraid to bring in other musicians to hone, expand and ultimately improve their sound. Norman Palm, or Norman Palm & Friends as he clarifies for live shows, works out of Berlin and Mexico City, whilst singing in English. Shore To Shore recently released by City Slang records is his debut album proper, though it was preceded by a 200-page art-book/12-track CD combo named Songs.
Palm’s diverse locales and almost every song on the album show a great sense of and appreciation for diversity; a unifying outlook on the world and its musics and arts. Shore To Shore opens with ‘Start/Stop’ which is initially heavily reminiscent of Bat For Lashes (another solo artist known for bringing in collaborative talent), but as it moves on more electronic elements and beats are brought in, with some jazzy stabs of Rhodes organ. However, what this opener truly does is introduces and acclimatises you to Palm’s VERY distinctive vocal. His voice is soft, often straying into higher registers, but as a breathy quality that makes it, at its most conspicuous, sound like nothing I’ve ever heard before.
Shore To Shore is relaxed, but moves at quite a pace. Come the closer ‘Go To Sleep’, you’ve been through elements of Röyksopp-esque electronica, classic Americana, and many points in between. In fact ‘$20’ seems to include as many ideas as you can possibly imagine. What demonstrates the real skill and nuanced talent is to bring this all together into one cohesive album, which he most definitely has. Whether it’s filter sweeps on ‘Images’, hand claps on ‘Start/Stop’ or steel drums over pulsing synth, Shore To Shore somehow fits together with itself very well. This level of cohesion also leaves the listener enjoying every track of the album, there seems to be not one track of filler.
Norman Palm may not be everyone’s cup of tea on the surface, in fact on first listen I could imagine quite an alienating affect coming from the diverse ideas and his off beat vocal. But after a first push past the surface, and its easy to see that Palm never pushes his listeners away. You could say that it is so out there that, in fact, it feels normal and inclusive.
If you take an oblique point of view, Norman Palm’s debut album tells you what it’s like in the title; Shore To Shore – from one place to another bringing it all in, containing the large and the small, and all in 10 tracks.
Released on 28th February 2011 courtesy of City Slang Records.