On his latest album, Lupercalia, Patrick Wolf is in line with the past success of the “happy” album; that rite of passage for any singer known for their darker and more serious work to release a brighter album (see: PJ Harvey’s Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea and Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline). In the end, Wolf created a beautiful album that evokes optimism of life.
Whereas his previous album The Bachelor found Wolf heavily brooding on just about everything to the point of nausea, Lupercalia is one gushing love letter to life. The first track, “The City,” is tailor-made for a musical. Wolf triumphantly sings, “won’t let this city bring me down” with handclaps aplenty against pounding piano chords and sweeping sax runs. Its elation bursts through the song.
Even in the darkest moments, Wolf finds the silver lining. During the elegant strings on “Time of My Life,” he tells a former lover, “thanks for the time of my life.” But these somber moments are few and far between. Highlight “Together” pulsates under disco-style synths and calls for the power of togetherness.
Fans may cry “sell-out” about Lupercalia because it focuses on the positive, which is regrettably considered more simple-minded than “serious” emotion. But Wolf shows immense skill that goes into articulating such emotions in a captivating manner, and a damn catchy one at that. If you still don’t care, Wolf is just too busy loving life.