Delilah - From The Roots Up

Delilah - From The Roots Up

With the right nurturing, this flower’s full bloom could truly be something to behold.

Rating:

No, ‘From The Roots Up’ is not a hair commercial (check out the album cover if you don’t know what I mean). It is the debut album from young Paloma Stoecker, aka Delilah. She is a bit of a wunderkind of sorts – signed to Atlantic Records at 18 years of age, scoring writing and recording with Chase & Status, grabbing the attention of R&B / funk great Chaka Khan, touring with Prince etc. Impressive resume considering she doesn’t even have an album out yet. Until now that is. With ‘From The Roots Up’, Delilah, together with a whole host of bright UK stars, is doing her bit to modernize R&B for today’s audiences. Incorporating elements of UK garage, dubstep and trip-hop, ‘From The Roots Up’ is R&B with a grittier, more thrilling edge.

‘Go’ set the standard really high when it first appeared; the blinking electronica comes down like raindrops around Delilah’s gentle coo. It sounds genuinely vexed and futile. The flipped-up refrain from Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’ is seamless woven and it’s genius. ‘Breathe’ is another stellar cut which finds a good middle ground between traditional R&B and dubstep, featuring the selective use of that “nuclear bomb exploding under the ocean” bass that James Blake’s debut album seemed to favour and embellishments of beautifully crying strings. Elsewhere ‘Never Be Another’ features some disorientingly wiry synths that twist Delilah’s particularly soulful performance into quite a tortured one. ‘From The Roots Up’ is an intensely personal album with dark emotions and experiences. And though for the most part, the production is consistently dark, the songs are quite stylistically diverse. For example, the reworking of Minnie Riperton’s ‘Inside My Love’ turns the already sexy tune into a smouldering one (she even gives Ripperton’s whistle register a good go – no small feat even at an octave lower).

On that note, it has to be said that Delilah’s voice is truly the centerpiece of the album. She possesses an inherently distinctive and sharp voice and it’s simply beautiful on every track. You can completely understand why a bidding war would have taken place to secure that voice onto any given roster. It feels essential to the success of the album’s best tracks and redeems the album’s weaker moments.

Occasionally there are times where the album frustratingly relies on overdone mainstream pop conventions, but thankfully that doesn’t happen too much. ‘Only You’ almost ventures into Vanessa Carlton territory with an ascending piano riff that cloys and seems out of place on the album. ‘Shades Of Grey’ has an uplifting chorus that seems destined to make it onto a romance movie soundtrack. And funnily enough, the most (presumably) autobiographical song, ‘Tabitha, Mummy & Me’ sounds too bare in comparison to everything else on the record and probably would have fared better on an EP of acoustic renditions of her songs.

At the very least those moments are not as unpleasant to listen to, they actually just seem incredibly cautious. However, therein lies the album’s main hindrance – artistic direction. When you have an album full of great quality tunes, all of which have something genuinely interesting going on, even these small detours can be distracting because you think “why would you waste space for something not up to par?” Considering how exciting it is to hear tunes like ‘Go’ or ‘Breathe’ find success whilst maintaining their unique qualities, it is a big let down when other songs fall a bit flatter. You get the feeling that a decision was made to keep tracks like this in order not to alienate fans of more traditional pop. If this is actually the case, it’s a shame that the more adventurous impulses were reigned in on these tunes because even the strongest tracks (the more adventurous ones) are completely accessible. Look at the balance ‘Love You So’ and ‘I Can Feel You’ achieved – but I digress.

It is a small gripe to be frustrated because a talented artist has been stifled from reaching their fullest potential on their first album. Delilah is stupidly young, stupidly talented and no doubt has a long career ahead of her. No one is fully realised at the age of 22 and nor should they be expected to be. ‘From The Roots Up’ is a great showcase of Delilah’s immense promise and a willingness to rise to the challenge of reinvigorating a genre in need of it. But if this flower is going to reach its fullest, healthiest bloom, it needs to be treated differently to other flowers because it, in and of itself, is special and is destined to grow into something else entirely.