Across the Atlantic, Paloma Faith is huge. Her debut, Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?, established her as a formidable neo-soul singer, and she countered the inevitable comparisons to Adele and Amy Winehouse with a quick wit, a wry humor, and outrageously elaborate stage attire.
Fall to Grace, her second album but only her first to get a U.S. release, is best when those qualities come through. It’s a pretty straightforward break-up album, sad-hearted and self-possessed. However, songs like “Just Be” and “Beauty of the End” knowingly subvert the standard mope narrative, while “Agony” implies — well, states outright — that the pain is just as precious as the pleasure.
Fall to Grace fluidly and irreverently toggles between sturdy neo-soul and flamboyant neo-disco. The production sounds purposefully excessive, as though Faith and producer Nellee Hooper understand that bombast is a completely natural and sympathetic reaction to romantic despair. Fortunately, Faith possesses a voice much too big to get swallowed up by all the bluster; she’s expressive and emotive, eagerly amplifying every mannerism and tic as though matching her performance to the vivid colors and elaborate flourishes of her wardrobe. Her pipes will grab U.S. listeners’ attention, but Faith’s eccentricities truly distinguish her.