14 June 2009

Patrick Wolf: “The Bachelor”

Patrick Wolf is an Irish singer-songwriter; yes, Irish, as he was born in Cork on 30 June 1983, but moved to England after his birth. His initial music lessons came in the form of church choir and violin lessons. His first pop performance was with Minty, a pop art collective, at age fourteen. Already, the seeds for experimentation in music were laid, with such a vast array of exposure: Irish heritage in London, classical and church music to artsy music. Though originally, he intended to release “Battle” this year, he split the project/double album into two halves, releasing “The Bachelor” on 1 June 2009 in the UK, 9 June 2009 internationally (downloadable in the US). This is not just any release for Wolf, this one is under his own record label Bloody Chamber Music. As a result, Wolf was free to record anyway and anyhow he wanted: he did not hold anything back.

The album begins very strong and can be seen as a protest album at the beginning with my favorite song from the album “Hard Times,” “Divided nation, in sedation, overload of information, that we have grown up to ignore, mediocrity applauded… this battle will be won!” After this kind of beginning, this battle cry of winning the war, one might think that this entire album is going to be political (considering that the working title as originally “Battle”), but the album slowly changes perspectives and begins to take a melancholic mood with such songs as “The Sun Is Often Out”: “So life has blessed you with a gift boy, that you’ve gone and thrown away. And with it your whole future and left behind your family.” (Could he be singing about himself?) The album picks up right at the end with “The Messenger” (“And I don’t fear what tomorrow may take, stay blind to my future and fate; I won’t hear what the other may say, let love lead the way”) – a mantra for living life. With one song, Patrick Wolf seems to put his life in perspective in a way most musicians do not… or cannot.

This is a hard album to define musically. I started listening to it thinking it would be electro-pop, but the incorporated violins made me think differently. Yet, the album is not symphonic. Though I am not sure I think that this album should be reduced to definition, the best description would be funktronica: incorporating electronic elements to what are essentially folk progressions. This is most obvious in tracks like “Thickets” and “Theseus.” But those choir/church lessons are present there, like in “Who Will?” It seems he cannot escape his past. Even the cover of the album harkens to the past. The pose, the font, the style of photography of this album covers alludes to that of his debut album, “Lycanthrophy” (2003). Considering that this is the debut album on his new label, this is tacitly stated by the cover itself.

The album is an amazing combination of different sides of Patrick Wolf: the revolutionist, the brave hearted, and the melancholic. The album is indeed an emotional rollercoaster that will have you shifting moods and loving every minute of it. Yet, do not take in vain the amazing soundscapes that he has created, which is proof of Wolf’s genius in merging different genres and concepts in music into solidly crafted songs. You will be jamming to songs and then realize that what has you dancing is the sound of a classic violin. Yes, Wolf has certainly outdone himself with this album, and now we will have to wait for part two, “The Conqueror,” out next year.

Track Listing:
1. Kriegspiel
2. Hard Times
3. Oblivion – featuring Tilda Swinton
4. The Bachelor – featuring Eliza Carthy
5. Damaris
6. Thickets
7. Count of Casualty
8. Who Will?
9. Vulture
10. Blackdown
11. The Sun Is Often Out
12. Theseus – featuring Tilda Swinton
13. Battle
14. The Messenger

Keep up with Patrick Wolf at his homepage, MySpace, and Twitter.

Here are his videos for “Vulture” and “Hard Times” from his YouTube Channel: patrickwolftv.

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