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[Album Review] Paloma Faith - Fall To Grace

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

[Album Review] Paloma Faith - Fall To Grace

Paloma Faith Fall To Grace

"Excited" doesn't even BEGIN to describe my feelings surrounding Paloma Faith's new album, Fall To Grace, out May 28th via RCA Records.  Ever since hearing her retro-steeped debut single, "Stone Cold Sober," I've been obsessing over this mega-talented 26 year old from London, wondering why the rest of the world wasn't equally as obsessed.  By the time her second single came out, I was hell bent on spreading the Paloma Faith gospel as far as my little music blog could take it.  Now, with a brilliant new album out in a couple of weeks, it's time for me to work my "magic" once again.

Faith released her second single, "New York," on September 13th 2009, followed a couple of weeks later by the release of her debut album, Do You Want The Truth or Something Beautiful?  The album entered the UK Albums Chart at an impressive #9, following hot on the heels of "New York," which peaked at #15 on the UK Singles Chart (her highest chart position to date).  For a relatively unknown artist such as Paloma, a Top 10 debut is more than anyone could have hoped for.  Faith's label at the time, Epic Records, worked hard at promoting her, winning guest spots on a variety of TV programs including This Week, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, Later...with Jools Holland and placement in advertisements for Rimmel, Samsung and even a PSA for alcohol awareness.  Despite all of the promotion, the majority of Faith's singles failed to gain any real chart traction (perhaps because there were five of them, well...six if you count the "New York" remix featuring Ghostface Killah)

Paloma Faith

Faith's early success can most likely be attributed to her productive yet personal relationship with her label mentors, Nick Raphael and Jo Charrington at Sony.  Following a shakeup at the label, Raphael and Charrington both left Sony and Faith was left in limbo.  While saying goodbye was most certainly difficult, newly signed to RCA Records Paloma felt a bit like an old pro, with a new found sense of creative freedom and the self confidence that came with it.  In an interview with Music Week back in March, Faith is honest with regards to her immensely successful debut album, admitting that she wasn't proud of the finished product, at least not completely.  Faith cited a lack of cohesion in the album's sound, due in large part to the fact that the material was written over a period of five years, much of it prior to being signed by Epic, and that every song had a different producer.  The first album came out when Paloma was just a burgeoning new artist without much real experience, which clouded her vision, or at least her abilities to see that vision through to fruition. Now, as an experienced "veteran," Paloma Faith knows what she wants and she's ready for a fresh start.


I'm a firm believer that the first track should really set the tone for the rest of the album, and Paloma Faith's epic lead single, "Picking Up The Pieces" (out May 20th), does just that.  Written by Paloma alongside Wayne Hector (Britney Spears, Cheryl Cole) and Tim Powell (Pet Shop Boys, Girls Aloud), "Picking Up The Pieces" is an emotionally drenched pop ballad of cinematic proportions.  Flawlessly produced by Grammy/BRIT/BAFTA-award winning producer Nelle Hooper, "Picking Up The Pieces" serves as the perfect introduction to her virtually flawless sophomore album.

"30 Minute Love Affair," co-penned by Faith and Ivor Novello Award-winner Chris Braide (Lana Del Rey, Robbie Williams) has a real 80s/90s sense about it, with an intro that's a bit reminiscent of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time," or perhaps early Madonna.  "Black & Blue" is a soulful mid-tempo ballad that calls to mind Adele, which perhaps can be partially attributed to co-writer Eg White (Adele, Duffy)'s role in the song's creative.  The Greg Wells (Adele, Rufus Wainwright), Matt Hales (AKA Aqualung) co-written "Just Be" is one of the album's clear standouts for me, with Faith delivering a master class vocal performance filled with soul and saturated with feeling.

The jazzy R&B-infused "Let Me Down Easy" could easily pass for a track off Amy Winehouse's flaw-free sophomore album, Back To Black, thanks in part to Faith's trademark raspy vocal and that pop star growl that so many female artists attempt (and subsequently fail).  While Faith's smokey vocal style has been compared to Winehouse in the past, some assume that she's just imitating, when in reality she's at the mercy of her instrument. It's just what she sounds like people!

While "Picking Up The Pieces" is definitely a top contender for favorite Fall To Grace track, the Toby Gad (Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson) co-written "Blood, Sweat & Tears" is right up there too.  With a little bit of disco, and a little bit of 80s/90s electronica, "Blood, Sweat & Tears" is one of the albums more up-tempo tracks and an OBVIOUS single contender.  The remix potential for this song is MASSIVE! I'm getting a real Kylie Minogue meets CeCe Peniston vibe on this song, not so much in it's original form but just imagine it backed by a serious 90s bassline. SERIOUS!

Paloma Faith

The ballads "Beauty Of The End," "When You're Gone" and "Agony" are all beautiful additions to the album.  "Beauty Of The End" is one of the album's more stripped back tunes, channeling more of a retro-singer/songwriter type sound mixed with a little bit of a Dusty Springfield vibe.  "When You're Gone" and "Agony" amp up the drama, sounding a bit more like something off her debut album, and not in a bad way at all.  Faith felt that her debut suffered from a lack of cohesion, but I think had these tracks appeared, the album would have sounded considerably more consistent.

Co-written by English singer/songwriter Ed Harcourt, "Let Your Love Walk In" is another of my clear favorites off the album.  In this beautifully arranged pop stunner, Paloma Faith's flawless vocals are highlighted by specklings of dubstep and gentle percussion (is that a triangle I hear?), making it one of the album's most interesting and more progressive pop tunes.  Rounding out the album we have the up-tempo, retro-soulpop Jackson 5-esque "Freedom," co-written by Faith, Sam Dixon (KT Tunstall, Will Young) and Al Shux (Alicia Keys, Lana Del Rey) and the Film Credits Sequence-worthy "Streets of Glory," which was co-written by Wayne Hector and Steve Robson (Take That, Leona Lewis).

Paloma Faith

While, in many ways, Fall To Grace feels like a singer/songwriter album because of its lyrical substance and the vulnerability that Faith emotes in every song, the dramatic and (dare I repeat myself) CINEMATIC production heard throughout, keep this album firmly ensconced inside the pop bubble.  Unlike with her debut, Fall To Grace maintains a generally consistent sound throughout, at least in terms of production.  Sure, there are sprinklings of different genres; soul, folk, R&B, and disco, but collectively, all twelve tracks sound like they spawned from a single record, and that's what Faith's been striving for all along.

Backed by an acoustic version and remixes from RackNRuin (ABOVE) and Moto Blanco, "Picking Up The Pieces" will be available on May 20th (iTunes UK).  Faith's new album, Fall To Grace can be pre-ordered now in both a standard and deluxe version, scheduled for release May 28th (iTunes UK).    

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Anonymous Mike said...

I'm excited to see her finally see her touring the US! She's gonna be at Joe's Pub in NYC on Sept 11th and I'm excited to see what she's got live :) I can't get "Picking Up The Pieces" out of my head haha

September 13, 2012 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger Jamie Sward said...

Thanks for your comment Mike! Yes! I was at her Joe's Pub gig. It was AMAZING. Hopefully she'll be back...

September 13, 2012 at 12:01 PM  

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