Single Review: Paloma Faith – ‘Picking Up The Pieces’

“‘Picking Up The Pieces’ is a none-too-genteel indication that Paloma Faith was wrong to be overlooked in 2009”

4 STARS

Digital Release: May 20, 2012

Physical Release: May 21, 2012

Amidst the sudden surge of the offbeat pop mistresses who made their début – some more impressive than others – way back when in the practically Old Age 2009, was the vivacious young magician’s assistant-come-singer and criminally overlooked Paloma Faith. In the rising popularity of the arguably more ‘interesting’ British popstar it was surprising to say the least that out of all of them, Paloma Faith faired the least successfully. She was somewhat cast aside after the minor success of ‘New York’ as the swarm of the media carried forward the comparatively less spectacular pop ingénues, such as the wonky-pop camp of Marina & The Diamonds which faired marginally better; as did the gothically pale Florence + the Machine and her indie-friendly ghost-pop; the story’s the same for Little Boots, who semi-successfully bridged the gap between poptimism and alternative snobbery on ‘Hands’; and even the androgynous and staunchly pretentious La Roux had a #1 single, ‘Bulletproof’. So what prompted the public to drop Faith’s seductively hypnotic and devilishly witty 50’s-inspired chanteuse image in favour of (aside for Marina) a group of haughtily intangible pop commodities? 

The biggest kick in the face of all was the fact that Lana Del Rey swaned in not a year ago and went on to achieve worldwide success with the sleeper hit ‘Video Games’, despite possessing almost none of the conviction and playfulness Faith had. Del Rey’s sombre tones would convince anyone she’d never conquered the American Dream that coloured in her début album and that she was utterly incapable of joy. Paloma however, is a far more grounded figure, whose humanity and tendency to wear her heart so far down her sleeve it nearly falls out of her hand makes her more real and far less snobbily detached from life than Del Rey. As was seen in ‘New York’ (and a fair majority of the tracks from her début), ‘Picking Up The Pieces’ sees Paloma unapologetically confront the elephant in the room, banishing any abstract metaphors or euphemisms which might leave gaps in her confessional as she consoles a partner still licking the wounds from his last relationship. Any sceptic would rightly wince at the thought of yet another self-deprecation anthem for the sole purposes of crying yourself to sleep at night knowing you’re never going to get through to someone stuck so rigidly in the past, but ‘Picking Up The Pieces’ is a more well-drawn concept than simply four minutes of well-aged ballroom pop. It’s progressive impulse from the days of ‘Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?’ are clearly evident, but brilliantly subtle, and the sonic translation of the timeless concept of rejection from the barren wasteland of artists like Jessie J’s or Leona Lewis’ creative melting pots channels effortlessly all the emotions the aforementioned two lack. Faith’s voice blends seamlessly with the gorgeously lavish production of sweeping strings and chiming bells.

I would argue there is no need for the gospel choir or the ad libs towards the end, as that’s the point where we lose focus on Faith herself and start to see glimpses of someone who resorts to venturing to the extremities of a perfectly good melody in a bid for soul. Faith’s voice is practically by default far richer than Jessie J’s tissue-thin screech and far more charismatic than Leona’s soulless wail, so the melodic meandering is nothing but unnecessary. Other than that, ‘Picking Up The Pieces’ is a none-too-genteel indication that Paloma Faith was wrong to be overlooked in 2009 in favour of disposable pop pap like La Roux and Little Boots, particularly. Here’s hoping she doesn’t pull a Florence with ‘Fall To Grace’ though, and release and album which, by the time you pass track five, is a barely distinguishable marathon of grandiosity.

 

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