Patrick Wolf
Lupercalia


4.5
superb

Review

by Channing Freeman STAFF
June 8th, 2011 | 67 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Growing up, growing older, with treasure to be told.

I do this thing where I pair up musicians and authors. It's not really concrete in my head; that is, I can't actually come up with a big list of paired-up artists on command. Most of the time I never actually do pair them up; the thoughts are just too fleeting to be able to follow them to a conclusion. So really it's more of a general feeling I get when I'm reading a book. Certain sentences or phrasings will start a song playing in my mind, but I'll unconsciously work to shut it off because I can't have music playing while I read, even if it's only in my head. The mood of a book can do it as well, which makes my thoughts even more abstract and thus harder to remember. The pairings, for the most part, dissolve after I put down the book, but there is one that sticks with me: Patrick Wolf and Vladimir Nabokov. It has nothing to do with what Nabokov wrote, but with how he seemed to approach writing as a joyful thing, alive and breathing.

That's always how I've envisioned Patrick Wolf approaching his music: as a wholly natural extension of himself. I get the sense that each album is already complete inside of him, and he needs only to extract them when the time is right. As he sang on Lycanthropy: They are marching out of me, one by one. It makes sense then, that his career has been pocked with a few bleak moments. The hissy fits, the threats of retirement. Unfortunate, but expected, perhaps even welcome, considering that if he didn't let those emotions boil to the surface at times, his music might not be so good. What also makes sense, in a frustrating sort of way, is the many predictions he made regarding both Lupercalia and The Bachelor. He was releasing a double album called Battle, and then he was splitting it up into two albums - The Bachelor, full of loneliness and melancholy, and The Conqueror, full of love - and then it was only The Bachelor, with the next album left unnamed and separate. But rather than distancing fans, such flights of fancy inspire a tender sort of long-suffering from them, because they are evidence that Patrick's creative prowess, however quick to speak at times, has not been diminished. Of course he would say that he'd release a double album and then completely scrap the idea when he got to a different stage in his life. It's how the creative process works. The Bachelor burned inside of him for awhile, and then that fire was put out in favor of a new one.

Really though, Lupercalia seems similar to how The Conqueror would have turned out, at least in subject matter. It's a record full of love songs, and it has a sense of originality about it that is quite welcome. What's interesting is that it's not the kind of originality that you'd expect. The Bachelor had a sound that was almost archaic, borrowing old ideas from all across Europe, from England to Ireland, Patrick breathing life into them and making them fresh and new. In fact, the only times the album failed was when it stepped away from such things and focused more on the electronic influences that have always been present in Patrick's music. It was rare, but it was there, and it kept the album from being a classic. That abrasive modernity just didn't mesh well with the album's main sound. This, ultimately, is where Lupercalia succeeds. It's very modern, almost obsessively so, and it stays that way through its entire runtime. The Bachelor was a record of give and take; Patrick took from old influences in order to express loneliness, and in turn paid those influences the attention they hadn't been given in a long time. It worked. Lupercalia is rooted firmly in the here and now, without reference to mythology or folk tales or any other themes that have always been present in Patrick's music.

The music itself has been simplified, although that becomes a relative term in reference to Patrick Wolf. His discography is packed with a variety of instruments and influences, and he's amazingly never had an album that felt bloated, although that could have easily happened. There's always been this exquisite balance to his records despite the fact that they've been all over the map as far as moods go. Lupercalia falls somewhere in the middle, leveling out with one mood and theme in its entirety. Although the entire album is about love, the songs never stoop to romance novel sappiness, even though the songs are quite sentimental. In order for this to work, the music almost certainly had to be dialed back. The ever-present strings of his earlier music would seem overbearing here, as would electronic influences. Both of those things show up (the strings, especially), but more prominently featured is the piano and horn section, all the better to carry such a triumphant mood. If electronic influences do show up, they serve only as a counterbalance to more beautiful sounds, and because of that, Lupercalia avoids the one failing of his previous album. It will probably be good for his career, in the long run, to have scaled back his ambition a bit, and if nothing else, the feelings present here will almost certainly lead to a monumental breakup album.

Patrick himself referred to these songs as marriage songs, as first kiss songs. That describes them better than anything else. Listening to the joyous simplicity inherent in the album's mood, you get the feeling that love, for all its pitfalls, really is the simplest thing in the world to feel; you need only to be inside your house, the city without, the falcons overhead, the days stretching off into the future, and listen.



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user ratings (55)
Chart.
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
demigod!
June 8th 2011


45005 Comments


posd

Digging: Autechre - LP5

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
June 8th 2011


16789 Comments


Patrick himself referred to these songs as marriage songs, as first kiss songs. That describes them better than anything else. Listening to the joyous simplicity inherent in the album's mood, you get the feeling that love, for all its pitfalls, really is the simplest thing in the world to feel

That definitely convinced me to check this out. Great review, even if at first I wasn't sure where the hell you were going with this.

Digging: Damien Rice - My Favourite Faded Fantasy

Xenophanes
Emeritus
June 8th 2011


10620 Comments


If I were to start listening to this guy, where would I start?


Thanntos
June 8th 2011


321 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

^The Magic Position. Great album.

Anyways, I have this but haven't listened to it yet, looking more forward to it now.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
June 8th 2011


17944 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

ya that first paragraph is all over the place but w/e

wabbit
June 8th 2011


7020 Comments


ow chan chan chan chan chan chan chan chan chan chan chan chan chan

conradtao
Emeritus
June 8th 2011


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Chan, your reviewing choices have been very

how should I put this

gay

lately

; )

Anyways, great review. I've always liked Patrick Wolf.

Fluorine
June 9th 2011


104 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Patrick Wolf, for me, is an example of one of those artists who I think is at his best when he's miserable.
But of course, I'll listen anyway. Here's hoping it's not unbearably schmatlzy.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
June 9th 2011


17944 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

like i said it's very uplifting but to me it doesn't ever get schmaltzy. others might hear it and disagree though

Transient
June 9th 2011


1461 Comments


dude, gay

sportsboy
June 9th 2011


640 Comments


any album with a song called the city rules


klap
Staff Reviewer
June 9th 2011


10545 Comments


chan i see you've progressed from non-punctuated summaries to simply no summary at all. you are truly a visionary in your field sir

on another note, why is chan still emeritus this is ridiculous

Digging: Jessie Ware - Tough Love

Zo0lz
June 9th 2011


107 Comments


This is a nice review, sir. Pos.

Spare
June 9th 2011


5360 Comments


postin in a chan review patrick wolf is gay

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
June 9th 2011


23973 Comments


why is chan still emeritus this is ridiculous


Digging: Taylor Swift - 1989

Willie
Moderator
June 9th 2011


16131 Comments


why is chan still emeritus this is ridiculous


Because he asked to be.

Digging: Kenn Nardi - Dancing With the Past

TMobotron
Contributing Reviewer
June 9th 2011


7148 Comments


i fucking love this guy

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
June 9th 2011


3777 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Would consider turning for this man.

jrowa001
June 9th 2011


8750 Comments


the bachelor is a great album. ill have to get this

Winesburgohio
June 9th 2011


1057 Comments


I don't think I'd ever have compared Nabokov with Patrick Wolf before reading this review. You have opened my eyes.

Also I'm totally with you on pairing musicians with authors, although for me it's albums and books-sometimes they just evoke each other so brilliantly. ANYWAY great review, hope the 'emeritus' title doesn't mean you're going to stop completely any time soon

Digging: Viet Cong - Viet Cong



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