Paloma Faith’s return to the spotlight has been quiet, far less vocal than her previous exploits. The Architect is the fourth record from the quirky Londoner, a grandiose exploration of multiple political landscapes.
The album opens with a spoken word intro from none other than Samuel L. Jackson, actual Mace Windu sounding off about Evolution over a sultry jazz piano. Paloma’s love for the alternative continues to shine through in everything she does, and this fairytale narrative plays to her strengths as a master of theatre and music.
The Architect casts a gloomy grey sky, with strings building to a swelling completion. The aforementioned fairytale aspect comes into play yet again, with much of this record giving off a strong female protagonist saves the world from evil overlords type of vibe. Talk of huntsmen and spells could well relate to an era of political involvement the world has not seem for some time, with people taking to the streets – and Paloma, our modern Boudicca.
Paloma is never too short of guest stars on what is easily her most illustrious record yet. On I’ll Be Gentle there is John Legend, a stunning accompaniment to Faith’s unique voice. Their harmonious voices are able to match one another note for note, with an audible chemistry. Faith has described this record as a “social observation record”, so the presence of Owen Jones is a welcome and non-forced inclusion. Having read tweets from Paloma over the past few years, it’s clear her awareness and anger about politics is nothing new – what is new though is the pop approach to such a serious issue. Politics of Hope leads into the all out pop revelry of Kings and Queens, breaking the important commentary for a brief moment so we can all let go and liven up a little.
The pop theme continues through much of the rest of The Architect, but things take a jazzier turn when Lost and Lonely is reached. Returning to her roots somewhat, Faith further confirms how in charge she is of maintaining her image. Even with huge pop hits in her armoury, it’s good to see her updating her original stylings to fit with more modern tastes.
Love Me As I Am is the ballad many will need to keep them on Paloma’s side, her vocal depth once again shining brightly. Backed by a jaunty piano, Faith lets her ability to convey emotional depth do all of the talking and encourages listeners to not apologise for who they are.
Whilst more mainstream success has tamed Paloma a little, it’s clear she is still living up to her integrity as an artist. There are pop bangers aplenty, coupled with enough social messages to not make it the source for heated debates on the way to work. Paloma’s vocal range is truly the star of the show though, and continues to be something that should be celebrated by more and more people.