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Patrick Wolf – “Lupercalia” Review

Patrick Wolf returns with his fifth album “Lupercalia” and this time the boy’s joyous and shout it out happy. The walk walks the fine line of deliriously happy alternative pop and makes The Magic Position feel like a warm up emotionally.

“The City” is unabashedly happy with smashing tom drums, trumpet fanfare, a saxophone (argh) riff and warped vocal adlibs. You can help but feel like you want to join the street party as the catchy chorus soars and peaks emotionally. It reminds me very much of The Magic Position in terms of style and emotion. “House” in a style contrast sounds like he stole Vanessa Carlton’s next big hit and remixed it with Abba. The happy bright piano chords underscored with bold orchestration as the disco rock drums pound away, this has massive hit written all over it. “Bermondsey Street” is another gush of pride and love with a chirpy riff of piano/harp samples backed with a stomping drum beat and this time it feels like we’re channelling Madness at times. Catchy, fun and deliriously happy like a carnival, the opening trio will set the tone for the rest of the album.

“The Future” turns to a more rockier edge with lots of country twang in the verses before big orchestral toms smash in for the chorus which again uplift the listener into a glorious middle section and euphoric ending – easily the best uprising on the album to date. “Armistice” is first quiet spot on the album while distorted guitars echo and vocals are shouting. It’s a beautiful track that slowly builds and evolves without ever breaking out into a frenzy and it stands out because of it. “William” is a strange and quirky inclusion, a fifty second track that’s experimental with lots of electronic noises and an Indian vocal flick of an ending. Very curious!

“Time of My Life” opens with a grand string section before the song starts properly as it builds and builds into a great cross genre track of rocky elements, electronica bass lines and beautiful string arrangements running throughout. This is where Patrick comes into his own. It’s happy, its catchy, but it’s not cheap pop either. The beginning tracks aren’t cheap pop either, but they go straight for the hook. This is more about creating a soundscape and it works better. One of his best tracks to date. “The Days” is the dreamy waltz on the album. Rich and sumptuous, the string arrangements are beautiful and the deep but sparse percussion compliments the strings perfectly. Wolf’s vocals are on top-notch throughout but seem extra emotional here.

“Slow Motion” is the second dreamy ballad of the album, at least for the first half of the track. There’s some great random sound effects thrown into the track such as sliding electronic buzzings and Indian inflected vocal snippets again and they strangely all work. There’s a really speedy keyboard underscore that when everything else falls away makes the track feel like it’s jumping around like a cassette tape. It’s inventive and effecting. “Together” takes a twist to 80’s pop with electronic arpeggios and heavily bled vocals seeping through the speakers. Not sounding too far from The Petshop Boys in some ways, its catchy and simple but with all the inventive little trinkets you can find in the production of a usual Patrick Wolf track. The closing track “The Falcons” is an epic finale with a real stadium pleasing chorus and ends the album with an energy filled happy number.

It’s funny “Lupercalia” is in many ways Patrick’s most straight forward work. The opening trio almost feel like a separate entity to the rest of the album in style, if not tone. After that Patrick settles into more familiar audio territory and while it feels like an old friend, this time they have a massive grin on their face. By far the happiest works of Mr Wolf – that will determine where it falls in your order of album favourites. Patrick however, is massively accomplished as a musician and a songwriter and deserves huge credit regardless.

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