British vocalist Paloma Faith's third studio album, 2014's A Perfect Contradiction, is a slick, funky production featuring several big-name songwriters, from Pharrell Williams to Raphael Saadiq. In the post-Amy Winehouse world of soulful, '60s-centric, dance-oriented divas, Faith has always leaned toward the artier end of the spectrum, setting her cherubic yet impossibly robust vocals against her Frida Kahlo-meets-Dusty Springfield persona. Which isn't to say that Faith's music is an acquired taste. On the contrary, her previous efforts (2009's Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful? and 2012's Fall to Grace) found the London-born singer balancing an inclination toward arch theatricality with her gift for belting out R&B hooks. On the heels of Adele's success, and in sea of up-and-coming Springfield devotees, Faith smartly moves away, if ever so slightly, from the neo-vintage, Mark Ronson-esque production of her past albums and toward a more high-sheen, disco, and '70's soul-influenced sound. Cuts like the Pharrell-produced "I Can't Rely on You," and the Saadiq-helmed "Mouth to Mouth," are infectious, booty-shaking numbers that wouldn't sound out of place booming out over the speakers at Studio 54. Similarly, the cowbell-heavy "Take Me" is a jubilant, Southern soul-influenced anthem that veritably drills itself into your head as soon as the descending piano riff starts. That said, Faith has built her career upon '50s- and '60s- influenced sounds and aesthetics, and A Perfect Contradiction certainly has its share of neo-retro reappropriation in the Diane Warren-penned "Only Love Can Hurt Like This" and the Stuart Matthewman co-write "Taste My Own Tears," which does sound a bit like Matthewman's longtime boss Sade, if she had recorded at Motown in the mid-'60s. Ultimately, it's Faith's irrepressible enthusiasm and unbridled vocal ability that shine the most on A Perfect Contradiction, and having musicians like Pharrell and Saadiq around just works to sweeten the deal.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar