Patrick Wolf

Lupercalia

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Originally conceived as the second part of a double album entitled Battle, South London singer/songwriter Patrick Wolf's fifth studio effort, Lupercalia, has instead been given its own star billing, two years after its intended accompaniment, The Bachelor, indicated Wolf was in a very dark place indeed. Having previously stated in his lyrics that "I'll never marry/no-one will wear my silver ring," his recent engagement shows that he's completely changed his tune, something alluded to on most of Lupercalia's 12 tracks, which unabashedly revel in the euphoria of love. It's a far cry from the usual tortured poetry that has dominated his unpredictable career, but it's a frame of mind which has helped to produce his most focused and mainstream music to date. Opening track "The City," a summery slice of Prefab Sprout-esque, romantic, new wave pop complete with triumphant brass section and forgivably corny saxophone solo, sets the optimistic tone from the outset, paving the way for the ABBA-meets-'80s Bruce Springsteen vibes of "House," an unexpectedly passionate account on the joys of domesticity, and the jaunty Baroque pop of "Bermondsey Street." Of course, this being a Patrick Wolf album, there are always going to be a few curveballs, like "Armistice," an otherworldly interpretation of a Manx Gaelic folk song complete with glass harmonica, cristal bachet, and dudok (an Armenian instrument); the 50-second ambient interlude "William," and the harpsichord waltz and wailing Middle-Eastern female vocals of "Slow Motion," which show he certainly hasn't left his avant-garde tendencies completely behind. However, these occasionally more eccentric offerings only serve to highlight just how big a transformation Wolf has undergone, heightening the impact of the likes of the lushly orchestrated synth pop of "The Falcons," the operatic electro of "Together," and the Killers-esque indie disco of "Time of My Life." Having seemingly exorcized his demons, Lupercalia's highly melodic but still resolutely exuberant nature indicates that Wolf's newfound positive outlook on life definitely seems to suit him.

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