James Christopher Sheppard reviews Lupercalia by Patrick Wolf
Lupercalia is the fifth studio album from underrated British singer songwriter and all-round musical genius, 27 year old, Patrick Wolf. Each of his previous four albums branch out in different directions, with Patrick experimenting with folk sounds, electronic music, brass lead pop, haunting piano melodies and just about everything in between. Lupercalia was originally intended as part two of concept album The Bachelor, but Wolf dispelled this theory in August 2010 through Twitter, claiming that the concept and original name, The Conqueror, had changed. The theme of the album is reflected in the title, with Lupercalia referring to the ancient festival of love and fertility around Valentines Day. Wolf told Digital Spy that despite the album being about love, which is the most common theme in pop, he ‘wanted to approach it in a way that has not been done before’.
‘The City’ 10/10
Easily the most flamboyant song that Wolf has released since 2007’s live favourite ‘The Magic Position’, ‘The City’ is a joyous celebration of not letting ‘the city destroy our love’. Brass is used heavily throughout the song, which suits the theme as it seems to have an element of standing proud, defiantly, and announcing that it is here to stay. With more songs like this on radio, I’m sure we would notice a much happier Britain.
Even from the charming intro, ‘House’ is one of the most exhilarating and happiest love songs I have heard in years. If ever there was a song that might make you want to get married- this is it. And somehow, Wolf manages to evoke this feeling without straying into cliché or cheese-land. ‘House’ is an absolutely beautiful, upbeat, shiver inducing love song.
‘Bermondsey Street’ 8/10
Less upbeat than the celebratory first two songs, but still very much on the love boat, ‘Bermondsey Street’ has a simple sweet melody and has the sense of walking through your favourite street with the sun beaming down on you.
‘The Future’ 10/10
Possibly Patrick’s most radio-friendly ballad ever, ‘The Future’ builds beautifully around a chorus that relies on some stunning female backing vocals that compliment Patrick’s vocal in a similar way to the Snow Patrol hit, ‘Set the Fire to the Third Bar’, does with Martha Wainwright. The only thing that could improve this song would be more of it!
The first song to really resemble Patrick’s haunting balladry featured throughout his past works comes in the form of ‘Armistice’. And a striking example it is, easily matching the splendor of ‘Magpie’ from 2007’s The Magic Position or ‘The Sun is Almost Out’ from The Bachelor, only ‘Armistice’ is a song about love surviving throughout the darkest times. Very subtle and moving.
‘William’ is less than a minute long and is more of a mid album interlude than a song by itself. ‘William’ appears to be a short poem dedicated to Wolf’s future civil partner, the man who supposedly inspired this entire album.
‘Time of My Life’ 10/10
First single from the album, ‘Time of My Life’ is finally available to own on CD and digitally, following it’s release exclusively on vinyl last December. The song has gone on to become a live favourite, as the already ecstatic crowd at Monday’s album launch show became particularly excited when the first few bars kicked in. ‘Time of My Life’ is a string heavy uptempo song that has a shiver-enducing sentimentality as it features the chorus ‘Happy without you’- presumably about acknowledging the good times through a break-up, wishing the other party well, all while trying to pick yourself off the ground. Pretty heavy song- this deserves an Ivor Novello award.
‘The Days’ 10/10
This song begins very delicately and beautifully and builds into string lead moving finale. ‘The Days’ is an example of Patrick Wolf at his emotionally moving best. With lyrics of yearning and regret leading towards the haunting ‘But when we come ghost, I will promise I will meet you, I will meet you at the end of the days’. ‘The Days’ is the saddest moment on Lupercalia.
‘Slow Motion’ 7/10
I first heard ‘Slow Motion’ at a show in December last year and it failed to grab me. After a few more listens and having seen it performed live again at the album launch, it has grown on me, but remains my least favourite track on Lupacalia. ‘Slow Motion’ is about living in slow motion prior to finding great love. ‘You gave me this kiss of life’ Wolf sings, and there are luscious strings, but it fails to hit the same peak as the other fine moments presented amongst this stellar collection.
From the album’s weakest moment to it’s strongest, ‘Together’ begins almost like a Florence and the Machine track, but quickly evolves into a synth-tastic up-tempo electronic song, with soft vocals, lush strings and beautiful harmonies. Pure string-lead electro new wave, ‘Together’ would be a standout track on an album by Hurts. This is just brilliant.
‘The Falcons’ 9/10
‘The Falcons’ could almost be ‘The Magic Position’s and ‘Time of My Life’s love child. The charming melody yields to the classic ‘Position’, while the strings and style are in a similar vain to ‘Life’. ‘The Falcons’ has a simple sentiment- ‘things are looking up’ now two lovers have found each other.
I have to give this album full marks, as I have awarded over half of the tracks 10/10. On his fifth album, Patrick Wolf has made one of the most coherent and charming albums of his career, and in fact, of 2011. Lupercalia should appeal to the masses and not just Wolf’s dedicated wolf-pack while establishing him as the astoundingly talented musician he is. I could not recommend this album highly enough.
JCS is the regular music critic for Eyewear; a graduate of Kingston University's acclaimed Creative Writing BA, he currently divides his time between Hull and London, where he is working on a book about growing up gay during the Blair Years. For more information on James, see his website http://jameschristophersheppard.wordpress.com