London – Songwriters have a heads-up on most of us. They are able to work through all kinds of emotions in song: setting records straight, sending coded or not-so-coded messages to lovers or ex-lovers, embellishing truths for heightened effect, exorcising ghosts, seeking change and more. The result can be a kind of freedom; a release from the past and a springboard to something better. In the hands of one as musically and harmonically adept as UK trio Paradisia, a band that has been on Best New Bands radar ever since we caught its debut live show last year, such liberation is stunningly realised.
With its debut album Sound Of Freedom, Paradisia impresses right from the opening notes. The three-girl a cappella beginning to hymn-like lead-in track “Tell Me” demands quiet attention; an invitation to sit up albeit gently and take notice. It’s a mood that is successfully sustained throughout the record as Paradisia cleverly intersperses its more downbeat reflections on love gone sour with empowering, uptempo interludes. The love and relationship terrain might be an overtly familiar one but the band puts an individual stamp on things so that the record holistically reflects the rhythms of life – the ups, the downs, the rounds and abouts.
The three band members – Sophie-Rose (vocals), Anna (harp, backing vocal) and Kristy (vocals, keyboard) – worked together on various musical projects over the past 5 years before uniting as Paradisia and their chemistry is reactive from beginning to end. The two main vocalists share lead duties and harmonise particularly well, with Anna adding a third voice on occasions. Keyboards and harp are ever present but never dominate. The guitar, bass and drums augmentation is measured and carefully chosen for each individual song. After the reflective opener, “Warpaint” builds from a soft keyboard and harp intro into a lush ballad as Sophie-Rose leads a battle cry for sisterhood while the punchy rhythms of “Idea Of You” offer shades of heyday Fleetwood Mac.
As you head towards the mid-point of the album, femme fatales are on the radar in classic pop songs like “Keep On Preying” with its subtle titular play on words and “Her” in which a different kind of heroine hooks you in. The craft that Paradisia brings to its eclecticism suggests that this is a band that could easily aspire to the mainstream; there is even a high-quality dose of modern R&B in the shape of “Just Words” which showcases Kristy’s smooth vocal. The volume on this radio-friendly run is then adroitly turned down as Paradisia give us its surprising take on Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark”. It is a unique, signature interpretation of a classic song we almost know too well to bother about deciphering the lyrics. The band’s delicate deconstruction gives new meaning and an intimacy to the song’s sad beauty. Sophie-Rose leads the first verse before giving way to Kristy for the second while Anna’s harp adds ethereal colour.
The torch song intimacy of “Silent Lover” then provides yet another high. Before coming to a fitting close with “Dreamer”, the album reaches something of a pinnacle with the achingly beautiful “Song For You”. Beginning with a soft, circular harp motif and steadily building with layered keyboard and guitars, the song is tenderly realised in cascading melody lines and topped with a controlled soaring guitar passage, before quietly resolving to a plaintive chorus: “Where d’you go, where d’you go my dear? / No one knows, no one knows you’re here / Where d’you go, where d’you go my dear? /
No one knows, no one knows your fears.”
Where do Paradisia now go? You can only expect higher.
Sound Of Freedom is out now and available to buy on iTunes. Check out Paradisia’s forthcoming live dates in the UK and Europe on the band’s Facebook page.
Photo by Isaac Marley Morgan
Tony’s great passion in life is music and nothing gives him more pleasure than unearthing good, original new music and championing independent musicians. His association with Best New Bands brings great opportunities for this. He also writes for Consequence of Sound and is a judge for Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition.
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