Paloma Faith asks the listener two critical questions with her release. Beauty or truth. George Orwell once said in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. Paloma proposes fantasy and falsehood as the sweet & rather stunning lie & the truth as the harsh disenchantment of modernity. Paloma indeed provides ambitious tablets & trinkets of narratives that belong to the hinterland, dreamsville, underworld and the ether. We know this for the first lyric exposes Paloma’s position. It’s in the first single Stone Cold Sober which you can take a look here. She declares she’ll be the late night lady you won’t recognize. Thus, the subject of the penumbra. You see, the album covets the greats: Marlene, Mae West, Kylie, Piaf, Queen Elizebeth and of course Carole King. Many have subjected her to the same horrendous comparison of Amy Winehouse and Duffy when in reality listening to the album its only in one track (the lyrically wonderful but altogether lacklustre “My Legs Are Weak”) that approaches anything that mirrors material produced by those previously mentioned singers. Indeed, it is only this track that fails to meet the high standard set by Paloma herself.
I have no issue with Duffy & Amy but I believe Paloma shouldn’t be seen in the same light. The album really propels this fact. Paloma does her best to avoid Motown and instead explores themes previously explored by Joan Baez, Julie Driscoll, Noel Coward, Ivor Novello, Doris Day, Marilyn and of course Jo Stafford. The album is a visual journey as well a oral narrative. This is what I believe marks a critical difference in Paloma’s stunning first album. I’m not talking about the stunning album artwork that comes with the physical cd (provided by the singer & Morizt Junge) here. Rather, songs like Broken Doll, Play On, New York and Romance Is Dead are aurally epic portraits of sonic polemic pop songs that are rarely created these days. The use of lush organic strings, harps and powerful melodies that, once merged, provide a gorgeous texture to the album. Putting aside track 9, everything on this album sounds like a modern twist on a Rodgers & Hammerstein musical. Everything is pure sweat, blood and tears. Yes, one could argue that the album is perhaps the best musical album that was released but never put on stage. You can almost see how each song could provide a critical plot line where the actors, fairies, goblins, princesses and such other fantastical creatures break into song. Paloma naturally being the narrator. Listen to Stargazer (track 8) and you’ll immediately understand where I’m coming from.
Stargazar is perhaps the track that encapsulates what PalomaWorld contains. Written with Jorgen Eloffson (Same Difference, Steps, No Angels, Agnes, Clea, Robyn, Geri, Leona, TryBe, Tess, Kelly Clarkson & Will Young,), the song is a bout of magical realism of the sort that wraps around the great tragic love stories and those glorious burlesque productions provided by those at the Crazy Horse in Paris. Kylie says in her debut “In my imagination there is no hesitation” and Paloma tries to explode limitations by spinning out an interwoven dreamscape where ten glistening pop songs do their best to achieve a stratospheric level of beautiful hyperbole. Does she get there? Yes. I think this album promises a great future for Paloma & her talent for taking risks is glorious. However, she doesn’t push hard enough. I feel this is simply because the album is far too short. Once you remove the unoriginal track 9 that leaves you panting for more. Its like she’s plucked your imagination and left you there without fully expanding on either the truth or the beauty promised in the title of the album. The second album will be of critical interest for me. I’d like to see her really explore dark sides to this world she’s lured me into with this first album. Such minor complaints aside, it is a tableau of sheer theatrics and must be celebrated. You’ll rarely find a release of this excellent level this year. It is one of the best albums of the year. 9/10
Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful? Out Now On Sony Music
Posted by Robpop at Monday, September 28, 2009