Becoming a father seems to suit Rufus Wainwright, because on his seventh studio album he's embraced a real dramatic pop sensibility and a celebratory mood, with 12 songs that sound fuller and more joyful than his output of recent years. With Mark Ronson in the production seat and the Dap Kings as his band, there's an enchanting flamboyance to the arrangements, but genuine sentiment underpinning every track.
He's gone for the classic sound of pop greats like Elton John and Queen, but when blended with a retro-soul twist, plus Wainwright's infallible melting croon and harmonic complexity, the album is undeniably modern.
The first five tracks are all in the swinging, groovy vein, but with a soulful mood. Jericho is irresistible, with its visceral, up-tempo pop, all romantic and vibrant, a la Elton or Fleetwood Mac, but with a sombre undercurrent. Rashida has a beautiful swagger and snap, its potent melodic figure soaring all over and getting stuck in your head.
Montauk is a beautiful tribute to his new daughter Viva, musically drawing on 70s classical icons like Philip Glass and John Adams. "One day you will come to Montauk, and see your dad wearing a kimono, and see your other dad pruning roses, hope you won't turn around and go," he sings with piano cascading around his voice.
There's also a touch of the classical on Bitter Tears - a track which allows Ronson to show off his dance beat prowess mixed with some Bach-influenced harpsichord lines. "Contrapuntal grooviness" as Wainwright calls it.
The last few tracks slow things down a little - Respectable Dive is a sensuousness ode to life and relationships, while Candles is a goosebump-inducing tale of coming to terms with his mother's death, and finding a way to be grateful again.
The album also comes packaged with a charming DVD which contains interviews with Wainwright and Ronson, and also a track-by-track explanation, with some lovely insights into the genesis of a triumphant album.
-TimeOutBy Lydia Jenkin Email Lydia