Paloma Faith Fall to Grace Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

Proof that pop doesn't need to be grey and restrained to feel grown-up.

Nick Levine 2012

Paloma Faith makes a great pop star: sharp as a hatpin, mouthy enough to reprimand The Voice after her "realistic" comments were reportedly cut from a recent guest spot, and no stranger to the dressing-up box (check out this album's cover).

Her 2009 debut, Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?, was a respectable success, spawning a couple of top 20 hits and slowly going platinum. But this follow-up should make her a singer who doesn't need a surname: "Did you see what Paloma was wearing on telly last night?"

Faith's savvy and ambition show in her choice of collaborators. Fall to Grace is co-produced by Jake Gosling, fresh from success with Ed Sheeran, and Nellee Hooper, a class act who's worked with everyone from Björk to Madonna. Faith calls the latter an "interpreter" of her musical ideas; the pair would discuss her songs in relation to scenes or images from films and Hooper would translate these ideas into soundscapes.

It sounds like it. Lead single Picking Up the Pieces is epic, like stallions galloping across the silver screen, and Fall to Grace has several other grand, cinematic ballads. However, Faith and Hooper know that films aren't just about big Oscar-grabbing moments, so they vary the tone.

30 Minute Love Affair is Annie Lennox-style synth-pop. Let Me Down Easy works a kind of "supper club dub" sound. Agony seems to be rewriting Lana Del Rey’s Video Games, but then decides to sound like Tori Amos covering Mr. Brightside. Phew!

None of the sumptuous production would matter if Faith hadn't delivered some decent tunes. She counts Eg White (Leave Right Now) and Dan Wilson (Someone Like You) among her co-writers, so her choruses soar accordingly, but there's also an emotional honesty to her songs. Most of them deal with relationships as knotty and dramatic as Helena Bonham Carter's hair. "It takes two imperfect people to dance a sweet ballet," she sings on Blood, Sweat & Tears, offering a neat précis of the Paloma perspective: romantic but realistic.

The quality slips towards the finish, but not enough to spoil a supremely accomplished sophomore album. Fall to Grace is proof that pop doesn't need to be grey and restrained to feel grown-up.

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