A chilling orchestral score opens up singer-songwriter Dia Frampton’s newest album.
“A lot can happen in a half a decade,” Frampton writes in her personal essay on Cuepoint.
Aptly titled Bruises, the album signifies the many bruises Frampton has felt she has accumulated in the past five years of her life.
“I felt like over the years I had accumulated many bruises: fear of failure, fear of aging, setbacks in my career, trying to find happiness, trying to figure out what ‘success’ meant, etc.,” she confessed in an interview on The Winding Roads That Led Me Here.
Frampton’s album signifies a great musical shift in her career. With past project ARCHIS in which she collaborated with film composer Joseph Trapanese to deliver an “orchestra pop” record, Frampton’s follow-up Bruises shows who Frampton is as an artist at best.
The opening track “Hope” features a haunting string arrangement that builds up in tense succession. Frampton’s wallowing echoes soar over the track as visions of cascading mountains, waterfalls or what-have-you come to mind.
Appropriately evoking the message of hope in the face of battle, warfare or simply life, the track sets the album up on a powerfully cinematic note. And we as listeners can only assume the album is going to take us on a rollercoaster of emotions.
“Where did all the years, all the years go wrong? When did all my youth, all my youth move on?” Frampton sings in the following track “Out of the Dark.”
The impeding pluck of a guitar continuously circles around a marching drumbeat as Frampton tells her story of losing her way and “stumbling out of the dark.” The upbeat drumbeats and climactic rise-and-falls throughout the song mimic her struggles to find her way, while also showing the glimmer of hope that goes with coming out of it.
The album is “about the ups and downs of life,” Frampton describes in an interview on LA18. “There’s a lot of light and dark moments in there.”
“Gold and Silver” is Frampton’s nostalgic ode to her older sister Meg, her best friend and musical partner with whom she toured in a band with throughout the beginning of her career from 2004-12 (Meg & Dia).
It’s a song “about sleeping under the stars and traveling with my sister,” she describes. “There’s nothing as beautiful as being able to see the world with somebody that you love and your best friend.”
The lyrically powerful “Dead Man” is Frampton’s fourth single from the album and is a beautifully heavy ballad full of pulsating piano keys and sweeping vocals as she sings of a relationship that was hard to break from.
“Look at what you’ve done / look what I’ve become / you’re looking at a dead man” Frampton sings.
“Lights” follows the same sonic wavelength as the album thus far, featuring light piano keys, lingering strings and thundering drumbeats.
“Golden Years,” Frampton’s second single off her album, signifies a break from the album’s rather slow, somber pacing and features dance-heavy, rhythmically upbeat drumbeat elements and grungy guitars. Halfway through the album, the song picks up well.
“We’re in the golden years / don’t tell me what the damage is,” Frampton sings, openly speaking about her decade-long struggle of being a young artist in the music industry. As one typically thinks of their golden years as being in their prime and “best” moment in their life, Frampton brings to light the struggle and oftentimes unheard adversity that goes along with it.
“Crave,” the album’s third single is one of Frampton’s few love songs. A song that I can’t help loving myself, it’s a deliciously sweet and soulful tune that tells of simply wanting to be with and spend time with someone. Her breathy vocals and catchy chorus work well against the sweet piano-driven melody full of lush strings and catchy drum fills.
“Don’t Look Back” lets the record return to its cinematic core, featuring eerie echoes, voices and a slowly plucked piano sequence. The textural elements that build are absolutely beautiful and make for a refreshing break in the record.
“Pushed under water / confront the monster,” Frampton echoes to herself. When the rhythm picks up in the second movement of the song, she sings, “Don’t you dare look away / I’ll keep you close to the light.” The songs brings upon images of her taking a loved one hand-in-hand through life, as she chimes in, “I love you dearly.”
“Blind“ follows with Frampton’s strong vocals and cinematic, sweeping drumbeats. Her vocals are paired with a male vocalist and offer a melodic similarity to a Fleetwood Mac tune. “Chances,” a more hip-hop inspired tune, is a great tune driven by Frampton’s tasty vocals and head-bopping drumbeats. The movement in the song offers more attitude from Frampton than we’ve seen from the album thus far as she sings ad-libs of “living and grinding” in the city of lights, with Frampton showing us her pseudo-rapping chops at best.
“White Dress” is a quiet pleaser as Frampton is able to create haunting echoes and hums against the pulse of the song’s hip-hop, bluesy soul. Her voice takes you in like a lullaby yet shakes you in fear through its cinematic elements. It’s vocally impressive, as the range of the human voice to create music on its own is shown here. Lastly, “Die Wild” closes the album as her breathy vocals sing along to a stripped-down piano about wanting to live a life worth living.
Overall, Bruises is texturally-rich and shows immense growth and maturity in Frampton as a singer-songwriter. While its focus is driven by the cinematic orchestra full of string arrangements, keys and textured drum fills, the album is touching, complex and emotional.
There are elements of beat-heavy electronic music (“Golden Years”) and sweet pop (“Crave”) to be found; Frampton’s heart for singing and knack for songwriting is at the forefront (“Dead Man”); and the ride of emotions a cinematic score can provide (“Hope”, “Don’t Look Back”) only heighten the effect of Frampton’s lyrics.
It’s clear that a lot of time, effort and love went into this album, as this isn’t the work of a commercial label pushing an album out for quick sales (cough, 2011’s Red album). Frampton’s unique raspy-yet-angelic vocals only seem to be getting stronger — we get clips of her singing ballads, sweet-talking lullabies and semi-rapping her way through tunes as she comes with more to say. It’s a great, honest album where Frampton isn’t afraid to show us her bruises; the music, I find, is beautifully orchestrated and written in a way that best encapsulates the spirit of what Frampton has been trying to achieve all along. I think this may be Frampton at her best.
Dia Frampton's album Bruises is available to purchase March 3rd through Nettwerk Records. Purchase the album on Amazon and keep up with Frampton at http://diamusic.net.