27 Apr 2024

Review: Fabiana Palladino by Fabiana Palladino

From The Sampler, 2:30 pm on 27 April 2024
Fabiana Palladino

Photo: Supplied

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Pastiches of 1980s music have been reasonably common since that decade ended, and usually come with a hearty accompaniment of snark, or remove. There are current acts who trade in this, with a smirk that says “don’t take this too seriously, we don’t”.

Not so Fabiana Palladino. The British musician’s debut is wonderfully sincere, despite using sounds that have been through the cool/ uncool cycle numerous times over the years. 

Much more important are its thoughtfully crafted songs, ladled with retro pop shimmer, and roiling with emotion underneath.  

Palladino first came to attention in 2017, when a single appeared under the banner of notoriously reclusive musician Jai Paul. He and his brother A.K., in conjunction with Muz Azar, had formed The Paul Institute, a creative collective and label looking to work with upcoming musicians. 

A single by Palladino was one of the first releases. Listening back, her sparse, slightly chilly aesthetic was already in place. There was a slow trickle of songs for a few years after that, then nothing till this LP, arriving seven years on. It’s been surmised that like her mentor Paul, Palladino takes her time till things feel right.

‘Stay With Me Through the Night’ is one of several tracks that fall into a kind of funk stomp. Comparisons to Prince aren’t undeserved. It’s very difficult not to bop your head, and her command of rhythm is evident throughout. 

Part of that may be to do with her father, Pino Palladino. He’s one of the world’s most acclaimed bass players, working with The Who and Jeff Beck over the years, and more recently appearing on Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter

Pino provided bass for this album, which also features Fabiana’s brother Rocco on drums.

‘Shoulda’ is the closest the album gets to sounding like a live band. It’s one of the most upbeat cuts on an album that was evidently born of heartache. 

When that does rear its head, it results in gorgeous, glitter ball ballads like ‘I Can’t Dream Anymore’.

If I have one complaint about Palladino’s debut, it’s that it falls into a slightly samey tempo and feel in its middle section. The production style here is one I've come to identify with home recording, but evidently that wasn’t the case, and she’s surrounded herself with some great musicians, including Jai Paul himself on numerous instruments. 

The main thing that’s drawn me back though is the resolve in her voice, and the way she crafts melodies that evoke the past, but manage to feel current.