It has been the best part of three years since Paloma Faith released her superb début album, Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful, but finally the wait is over with the appearance of Fall to Grace. This follows on from last week’s release of its first single, ‘Picking Up the Pieces’ (embedded below), which is a good window into the album, as it’s indicative of the general theme and sound present.
There is a slightly more melancholic tone on Faith’s sophomore effort, with most of the songs dealing with crumbling or failed relationships. It doesn’t have quite the tempestuous, stab-you-in-the-eye aggression of say Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill, but rather a more grown-up, ‘this will ultimately be better for both of us’ type perspective. Certainly, the album as a whole feels more adult and less poppy than her début work, as brilliant as that was.
The sumptuous and, as Faith herself identified in her recent interview with So So Gay, cinematic feel to the album carries the body of work brilliantly from start to end, with the occasional unexpected turn, like on the disco-tinged ‘Blood Sweat & Tears’ which is an enjoyable detour from the orchestral implementation of the rest of the album.
Faith’s vocals seem to have generally improved over the past three years, though she doesn’t seem to have entirely ironed out all the creases. There are occasional instances where her lyrical delivery can sound a bit clunky and laboured, mirroring rather than smoothly blending over the rhythm of the song. Other times, Faith veers towards shouty and strained territory, though this is partially reflective of her own voice, which naturally has a rather harsh, raw edge. However, most of these vocal blips are fleeting moments, thankfully.
One of the vocal highlights of the album is ‘Just Be’; with its stripped-back piano, Faith provides a highly competent accompaniment, reining-in her naturally brassy voice to a beautifully soft and understated cooing on the chorus. Another notable occasion is on the excellent ‘Freedom’ (mildly reminiscent of Fatboy Slim’s ‘Praise You’), where Faith impressively straddles a broad range of notes without ever sounding out of her comfort zone.
Overall, Fall to Grace is a strong comeback for Paloma Faith, especially as it is the notoriously tricky second album, where many lesser acts falter. With her maturing sound and improving vocal talents, Faith has crafted a highly accomplished and consistent album of which she can be very proud.
Fall to Grace is also available as a deluxe edition, containing five bonus acoustic versions of selected album tracks.
Go Get It: ‘Picking Up the Pieces’ / ‘Blood Sweat & Tears’
Forget It: ‘Streets of Glory’