Filed under: album, review, video | Tags: 2009, music, p. viktor, paloma faith
Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful? •••½
Let’s get the Duffy comparisons out of the way first. Paloma Faith’s voice does share similarities with the Welsh soul-pop chart-topper, and even Amy Winehouse and Gabriella Cilmi on the odd trill and low note, but that’s pretty much where the resemblance ends. She is by no means a pale imitation of these artists, though there’s the nagging suspicion that if the archly titled Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful? had been released at this time last year it might well have received the kind of critical savaging many new artists never recover from. However, since Duffy’s blockbusting Rockferry was released the musical landscape has drastically changed. Synth-led electro-pop has taken over the charts and all of a sudden Faith’s debut seems like an oddity, a throwback, but all the more glorious for it. She could have opted for a sound akin to Lady GaGa, La Roux or Little Boots et al., but standing firm on the ‘soul sound’ best suited to her voice and style adds something of a stubborn charm to the album.
Despite this refusal to kowtow to current trends, Faith pretty much has commercial and critical success assured; her fashion sense has been favourably compared with Lady GaGa’s (leaning towards the strange and avant-garde) and she’s also embarked on a burgeoning film career, appearing in 2007’s ‘St. Trinians’ and Terry Gilliam’s much talked about ‘The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus’. Luckily, Do You Want The Truth… proves she has the songwriting chops, the personality and the vocals to move beyond these flirtations and establish herself as a pop singer to be taken seriously. Singles ‘Stone Cold Sober’ and ‘New York’ probably won’t do anything to quell the Duffy comparisons, but they are well-built songs displaying Faith’s great ear for musical hooks and her perhaps more literate take on relationships. The latter’s story of heartbreak is beautifully lifted at the end with a gospel choir, managing brilliantly to swerve past cheesiness into something elegiac, heartfelt and uplifting.
Do You Want The Truth… has many other wonderful moments. The ’60s pop of ‘Smoke & Mirrors’, the string-led, cinematic ‘Broken Doll’ and the poignant title track all showcase Faith’s gliding voice, an instrument that’s both sensual and smoky – at times genuinely melancholy, at others simpering and sneering – but they also show that Faith has a talent for crafting a memorable tune. The vaudeville, chaingang call-and-response of ‘Upside Down’, the big chorus of the harp-strewn ‘Stargazer’ and the majestic album closer ‘Play On’ with its staccato harmonies ensure that there is little in the way of filler on offer. There are some weak inclusions, specifically the somewhat contrived ‘Romance Is Dead’ and the slightly flat ballad ‘My Legs Are Weak’, but these are not enough to detract from the quality of the album as a whole. With any luck, this shimmering debut should ensure that Paloma Faith is able to distance herself from her ‘soul singing’ contemporaries without sacrificing anything of her essential self.
UK release date: 28/09/09; www.myspace.com/palomafaith
‘Stone Cold Sober’
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