Bryan Ferry

Olympia

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There are two headlines for Olympia, Bryan Ferry’s 13th solo album. The first is that it’s Ferry’s first collection of primarily original material since 1994’s Mamouna -- of the ten songs only Tim Buckley's “Song to the Siren” and Traffic's "No Face, No Name, No Number" are from another author -- the second is that among the many collaborators here are Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera, and Andy MacKay, all original members of Roxy Music, their presence suggesting a return to the chilly art of Roxy’s earliest records. Neither headline tells the real story: Olympia is Ferry’s most seductive album since Avalon, a luxurious collection of softly stylized sophistication. Instead of pushing into new territory, Ferry focuses on refinement, polishing his signatures -- primarily songs so slow they seem to float, and also the occasional high-end piece of pristine pop-funk -- until they’re seamless, the textures shifting so subtly that when the chorus of “Heartache by Numbers” turns eerie, the change in atmosphere is almost subliminal. Such command of mood is a tell-tale sign of a quiet perfectionist, but Olympia doesn’t feel fussy; it’s unruffled and casually elegant, its pleasing familiarity reflecting the persistence of an old master honing his craft.

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