Review Summary: Forget the truth & allow yourself to be swept away by something beautiful.
‘Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?’ is an extremely apt title for the debut album by English singer Paloma Faith. “I’m a chameleon, I’m always in disguise” she bellows on rousing opener ‘Stone Cold Sober’, before later following up the titular question of the title track with “I am happy to deceive you”. How honestly dishonest of her! It is without a doubt the best way to approach delivering the ten tracks on show here though, and the words “on show” are used entirely on purpose.
Since Paloma is another addition to the recent soul-pop craze, vocal comparisons to Amy Winehouse are certain to be made. However, where-as Winehouse lives and breathes every word, the same cannot be said of Faith. Any attempt to hide such a fact would be perceived as fake. As it is though, she is an entertainer. This should not surprise since Faith is a trained dancer, an ex-magician’s assistant and an actor (she has a role in ‘The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus’ alongside Heath Ledger). And where did she begin singing? In cabaret and burlesque clubs of course!
Do not let any of the above background information scare you away however. Faith takes every single ounce of her experiences and infuses them into her music. It results in one hell of a theatrical roller-coaster ride that holds attention from beginning to end. With its infectious sing-along chorus and fantastic horns arrangement, the short, rapid-fire opener is a memorable song of the year contender. ‘Smoke & Mirrors’ includes sweeping cinematic strings, ‘Broken Doll’ contains a grand piano, ‘Stargazer’ opens with a harp, and ‘Play On’ satisfyingly closes proceedings by practically using all of the aforementioned musical elements plus a few more.
A wide array of accompanying vocal techniques are also thrown in for good measure; 2nd single ‘New York’ employs a gospel choir, ‘Upside Down’ has vaudevillian-like male backing vocals, and the closer alternately uses broadway-reminiscent females. Thankfully though, this LP is not just a kitchen sink musical and vocal extravaganza. Faith clearly knows how to construct a piece and proves it on the more conventional title track, which relies on melody and atmosphere above anything else. It is also a great example of her story-telling talent, which is used to good effect elsewhere on ‘Broken Doll’, ‘New York’ and especially ‘Romance Is Dead’.
Paloma Faith is clearly not going to be for everyone. Her distinct vocal style – which clearly borrows a little from Winehouse, Etta James & Billie Holiday – will put many off. As will her quirkiness and overly dramatic theatrical nature. However, those willing to immerse themselves in Faith’s world will be immensely rewarded by this catchy, consistent and powerful release. Forget the truth and allow yourself to be swept away. Or as the artist herself states on the title track; “just close your eyes and make believe”.
Recommended Tracks: Stone Cold Sober, Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful, Play On & Romance Is Dead.