Paloma Faith released her debut album, Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?, in late September. I wasn’t too interested in listening to it initially – from what I’d read about her, and from the quick listen I had to a snippet of one of her songs, she just seemed like another Amy Winehouse-wannabe.
Well, that was a mistake on my part. I found out my error in judgment when I gave her whole album a good listen. My first thoughts were so, so wrong – and I ended up loving Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?. To write Paloma off as a wannabe or imitator would do her talent a huge disservice. If any comparisons are to be made, I’d say that Paloma sounds more like Duffy with bite. In any case, Paloma’s voice is actually more 30s-jazzy than bluesy, at least to me!
What I’m getting at here is that it’s worth giving music you’re not generally inclined to listen to a chance. Good things can come of it. :)
Now, on to Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?!
Right from the horn and piano hook that starts “Stone Cold Sober” off, I knew I was going to like this song. Great lyrics give the song an extra kick, like when Paloma tells anyone who would dare to mess with her to “take a rocket out to space”! As good as this track is, it does seem kind of derivative of Duffy’s “Mercy.” Still, it makes for a memorable start to the album. “Smoke And Mirrors,” the next track, has a grand sound – it gets even grander with the big chorus! I love the “give it up” bridge, especially how Paloma sings “lover” as “lovahh”. Her voice sounds neat during the wordless middle eight, and when she lets loose towards the end… just, wow!
In the lovely ballad “Broken Doll,” I can hear how Paloma’s voice might actually turn people off. It’s very stylized and distinct. For those of us who love her vocals, this bass-heavy, slow-paced track puts the focus right on her pipes. After the superb displays of self-confidence in “Stone Cold Sober” and “Smoke And Mirrors,” it’s endearing to hear the bits of vulnerability Paloma displays here. Listen for the cool way she sings “piece me all together” at 3:30.
“Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?” Well, I don’t know about truth, but Paloma certainly gives us something beautiful in this song! I like that she dialed it back a bit on this one – she sounds just as good in a low-key setting as in a full-on orchestral sound. The guitar flourishes that enter at 1:26 are excellent touches. More strings sweep through as the song progresses, and horns blare, too, all adding up to a nicely layered production.
My favorite track on the album, at least next to “New York,” “Upside Down” is irresistible. The jazzy-30s vibe is tailor-made for Paloma’s voice, and the male background vocals complement her well. This song will get you moving! The middle eight is my fave bit, especially when she takes a melodic page from The Andrews Sisters’ “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” I hope this gets released as a single!! “Romance Is Dead” starts off dreamily, with atmospheric, gauzy production and a pretty melody. The second verse has fantastic lyrics, like when Paloma sings “you kiss with such a potential.” I love how her voice cracks at 2:18 – Paloma is such a captivating singer.
“New York.” What can be said about this piece of absolute loveliness? Sumptuous, larger than life, and featuring a tour-de-force vocal from Paloma, “New York” is the highlight of an already excellent album. I adore the lilting background vocals that enter in the second chorus. The whole song is amazing, but when the choral background vocals come in at 2:33, this track moves from the pop realm into the sublime.
“Stargazer” has a beautiful chorus, both melodically and lyrically: “how will I shine anymore without your atmosphere?” Perhaps not as ambitious as the other songs on the album, it still sounds beautiful. “My Legs Are Weak” is like a gorgeous, downtempo funeral march. The chorus cry of “goodbye sweet angel” is movingly mournful. The bombastic closing track, “Play On,” is sort of like a companion piece to “My Legs Are Weak.” That blast of a chorus is just wonderful – Paloma really belts it out! The strings and horns are in particularly good form here. A rather epic way to end a really lovely album.
Also worth seeking out is the pretty, relatively restrained “Press Lightly,” an iTunes bonus track. You can find places to buy Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful? here! :)