Like emerging from the smoky haze of a battlefield, singer/songwriter Dia Frampton's Bruises is a breath of fresh air that signals a hard-fought victory and hope for the future. Released over five years after her post-Voice solo debut, Bruises chronicles the ups and downs of her struggles within the music industry, and the result is an emotionally honest and mature work that is the spiritual successor to Archis, her 2014 orchestral pop project with composer Joseph Trapanese. The rousing "Out of the Dark" is a perfect place to start as she sings, "Where did all the years go wrong? When did all my youth move on?" Bruises succeeds in chronicling her fraught underdog journey atop the cathartic wave provided by the Hungarian Studio Orchestra (conducted by Peter Pejtsik). The grand orchestration provided by the HSO is the secret weapon of this entire affair, adding swell and sweep to gorgeous tracks like the stunning "Lights," the yearning "White Dress," and the triumphant "Don't Look Back." Highlight "Blind" is epic and theatrical, the soul of Bruises that includes the album's mantra "Carry on/carry on." With a horn-filled build-up that borders on overwhelming, it's one of many shiver-inducing moments on Bruises. This self-awareness and vulnerability on display gives the album an endearing, confessional energy that connects to listeners through Frampton's soul-baring purity (fans of Birdy, KT Tunstall, Mazzy Star, and Tori Amos might sense their spirits at work here). The touch of producer Dan Heath (Lana Del Rey, Troye Sivan) is apparent on a handful of tracks that recall the cinematic scope that he imparts on Del Rey, especially the nostalgic "Gold and Silver" and the airy "Crave." Over the peaks and through the valleys, Frampton pulls herself from the darkness, covered in the eponymous black-and-blues, standing tall and finding herself once and for all. This is her restart, a rebirth, and the results are so satisfying that one could give thanks for those difficult years, because without them, Frampton might not have produced such a fine album.
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AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung