Album review: ‘The Architect’ by Paloma Faith

By Daisy Balmont

Long-time fans of Paloma Faith may be surprised by her most recent release: The Architect, which is intended to critique the suffering of the world around us and colloquially introduce socio-political subjects. The Architect is her 4th studio album and marks a change of tone for Faith, moving away from songs of love or heartache which previously had dominated her albums. A possible explanation for this, offered by Faith, was the arrival of her daughter, causing her to “look forward” and “outside herself”.

This album hits hard. Opening with a powerful, inspirational monologue from Samuel L. Jackson which could easily have been pulled straight from a film; the track sets the revolutionary tone for the rest of the record, emphasizing that you, the listener, can change things around you, compelling you to “do something!”. Musically, the album is a joy to listen to, with few tracks feeling repetitive or filler-like. It could be said that Faith’s style is somewhat formulaic, however there are far worse offenders within the genre, not to mention that the album shows stylistic development from her early work. Faith’s soulful voice cannot be faulted and lends itself to creating something with a modern feel, yet has the potential to stand the test of time.

Faith’s soulful voice has the potential to stand the test of time.

The ideas presented by the album are by no means new ones: many people have tried to inspire change through the arts before her, so it will be interesting to watch the impact of this record upon the public and to see how well it is received. Faith announced in her 2015 Glastonbury set that she listened to the likes of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’ whilst creating The Architect, which does not obviously influence the album at first listen. Although, perhaps some influence of 1970s psychedelic rock manifested itself in the form of discontent with the current state of the world, or the desire to describe an alternative as vividly as some of Hendrix’s sci-fi like creations.

An interesting point of the album is its collaborations. Some appear to be for the sake of musical ‘aesthetics’ as it were, adding status most likely to generate a hit single. However, some are far more intriguing, epitomised by Owen Jones’ feature. Jones and Faith have worked together previously, with Jones opening a show for Faith before, but never quite like this. It’s hard to say whether it is intended to act as subtle propaganda for liberal schools of thought on the album, or simply is to give the statements more power and credibility than that of actors and musicians who are so often viewed to be worlds apart from academia – perhaps unjustly so given the influence of music over peoples’ emotions and thoughts.

Influence of 1970s psychedelic rock manifested itself in the form of discontent with the current state of the world.

My personal favourite track of the album is its title track – it is uplifting, empowering, and thoroughly enjoyable. The chorus ends with Faith stating, “I am the architect”, which really entices you to question what she means by this: what is she building, what is being created or designed? The track should be interpreted personally, with the architect referring to each of us and the role we play in constructing our society, influencing views and norms through our choices and beliefs. I like to think that the purpose of this album, as a whole, is to use Faith’s personal journey to ‘enlightenment’ and activism, perhaps through her becoming a mother, to show each of us that we should have a responsibility to be the change we wish to see in the world, and to foster a culture of discussion and debate with the overall goal of improving the quality of life and ending suffering.

Image: Andy Miah via Flickr

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