Top 10 Albums of the Year: #3

Patrick Wolf - The Magic Position (Low Altitude / Polydor)
Turning quite the corner after the beautifully stark Wind in the Wires (2005), The Magic Position is largely as gleeful and bright an affair as the cover art might suggest. The cover might also suggest that the music is unabashedly theatrical, melodramatic, and a bit of a guilty pleasure (which it is). It is also a stunning collection of pop songs, essentially another notch in Wolf's already well-notched (and now glitter-coated) belt.
"Overture" kicks things off at a solid gallop and a majestic violin melody. It gets the blood pumping and sets the pace for the rest of the album. Combined with the title track and "Accident and Emergency," the opening trio of songs dazzle with their energy and sheen. Wolf exudes plenty of charisma and personality throughout the album, so song lines about being placed in the "major key" and living through the clouds so you can see the sun come off as surprisingly endearing instead of stomach-turning (which they should be).
All of this flamboyant vivaciousness is countered well by a handful of tracks with a more somber tone ("Bluebells," the mournful "Magpie"). "Augustine" stands out as a sort of classically styled yet updated pop ballad, and it's a great example of how Wolf's vocal style are becoming both continually refined and distinct. Interlude "Secret Garden" makes for a bone-rattling palette-cleanser with its ominous rave-sirens and distorted drums. It is also intriguing because it might point to the sound that Wolf will be advancing to in the future, as he has said he will be working with Alec Empire and tooling a massive, aggressive concept album about war and stuff (I think).
Since this is Wolf's first major-label album, it makes sense that things would go bigger, bolder, bigger, bolder, bigaarrrrrrrrr! And in such a situation an artists' sound might collapse under its own weight, but it seems like Wolf is a big enough personality that he manages his shined-up pop sound very nicely. He continues to follow his muse with each release, and one can only hope that this habit will result in continued diverse efforts.
And yet another personal note, the song "Enchanted" was used for the first dance at my wedding this summer. So there's that.

No comments: