I realise I’m probably not the target demographic for Delilah’s debut album From The Roots Up, but it is nonetheless an album I feel compelled to make comment on given that it’s been unexpectedly high on my own pod rotation for the best part of the last couple of months. And I say I’m not the target demographic only on the presumption that lush dubby angsty girl pop couldn’t possibly appeal in any way, shape, or form to a grizzled late 40-something father of three. But I’m not so sure taste and wider appeal can be quite so easily framed, or accounted for in such cold demographic terms.
Delilah – aka Paloma Ayana Stoecker – is a 22-year-old Paris-born, London-raised, genre-defying songbird of such precocious talent it seems certain that From The Roots up is merely the first instalment in what will surely prove to be a long and successful career. Without doubt the album is as polished a debut effort as we’ll see all year.
I knew of Delilah some 18 months ago as the voice featuring on a number of dubby electronica tracks produced by Chase & Status, most notably on the hugely popular ‘Time’. But at that stage there was no real hint that she was pursuing a “solo” career in her own right, and to be fair I probably wouldn’t have noticed either way. Then one night about a year ago, driving along the M8 somewhere between Edinburgh and Glasgow, the rental car’s audio at full tilt, I suddenly heard ‘Go’ in all of its glory; wtf was this?! … isn’t this just a re-work of Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’? … yet it’s lush and cold all at the same time … and slighty bent … and twisted and dubby … disconnected somehow. And that voice, I knew it from somewhere? … I’d immediately been hooked by a strong sense of nostalgia, and seduced by the subtle poptastic charms of Delilah.
‘Go’ is one of several genuine highlights on an album that gets better with every listen. From The Roots Up blends strong songwriting with elements of chilly dubstep and high gloss electronica to produce an absorbing 45 minutes of pure pop, class of 2012 style.
There’s the angst-ridden ‘Breathe’, the melodic pop of ‘Love You So’, and of course there’s ‘Inside My Love’, an ambitious cover version of Minnie Ripperton’s finest moment. Every single track on the album has something going for it, and it certainly feels like a filler-free full-lengther; a rare thing in the dance/pop crossover album market these days.
Aside from ‘Inside My Love’, and the partial re-write of ‘Ain’t Nobody’ in the form of ‘Go’, a feat that Chaka herself labelled “genius”, the bulk of the album is written by Stoecker/Delilah, the vast majority of it while still in her late teens, and perhaps it is in the art of composition and arrangement that her most prodigious talents rest.
Most of all though … and here’s the rub … I enjoy From The Roots Up because there are parts of it where it feels like Delilah steps beyond the teenage girl in me to speak to the grown man; she may only be 22 and somewhat shy on genuine life experience, but somehow she gets “in”. Somehow Delilah transcends demographics and target markets to soundscape some of my inner most – and perhaps darkest – thoughts. More often than not with little more than a few jazzy bars of a solitary keyboard accompanying that highly addictive and unique voice.