Thursday, May 10, 2007

Patrick Wolf, The Magic Position (Low Altitude)

Star-kissed prodigy catches the spirit and goes for the heart

The Magic Position is the work of an artist as touching as he is touched.

Blessed with prodigious artistic talents that belie his relative youth and life experience, Patrick Wolf does the touching here. But Wolf's blessings can also be a curse, as in the way that his flamboyant tendencies and musical predilections made him a target for schoolyard bullies as a kid.

Now 23, the U.K.–born Wolf has channeled those feelings of frustration and the need to love and be loved into his third full-length album, The Magic Position, a brilliantly conceived collection of little epics, each an earnest poem dedicated to the freedom to fly your inner freak flag as high as possible. When he sings, "And I know how you've hurt/Been dragged through the dirt/But come on/Get back up/It's time to live," over a sea of soaring violins during the album's title song, it's obviously a personal observation.

His intense, dramatic vocals are an ideal foil for the sprawling nature of his songs, coming across like the overachieving lovechild of Morrissey and ambient pioneer David Sylvian. Juxtaposing symphonic grandeur with subtle electronic flourishes, Wolf creates a singular sound that's both intimate and cinematic.

Show-stopping ballads like the piano-powered "Magpies" showcase Wolf's passionate delivery against the time-hewn rasp of the legendary Marianne Faithfull, whose presence brings a substantial weight to the proceedings. From dreamy torch songs of new love ("Enchanted") to bass-heavy dance-floor anthems of heartbreak ("Bluebells"), this promising young artist is proud to wear his heart on his sleeve and sing of the joy and pain that heart has to endure.

(Originally published on