The Magic Position
I remember dismissing Patrick Wolf two years ago. Not for his music, but for the press he was getting. Some fey British youth long on theatricality and woe honestly trying to convince people he was a werewolf? Uh ...
So I slept on Wind in the Wires, generally considered his bar mitzvah into the world of real artists, graduating from the toddler camp of meteoric, fickle British press. The Magic Position makes me want to go back and take a listen. Dark and theatrical and opulent, Wolf's clearly pulled every trick he's learned in his short time on earth -- every piano line, breathy moan, melody orchestral flourish, crescendo-ing analog bleep.
It's not a perfect album and occasionally feels piled on, but Wolf has a natural gift for mood and tempo that shows through even the rough spots. Listen for the duet with Marianne Faithful -- it'll freak you out.
As disappointing as Smith's untimely death was in 2003, anyone following his scattered career would be hard pressed to find it shocking when reports of a self-inflicted knife wound were announced. Smith's music had always straddled a very fine line between beauty and self-destruction.
A musical prodigy at a young age, Smith ultimately struggled to find balance between his affection for the healing qualities of music and the personal demons he battled as a survivor of child abuse at the hands of his step-dad.
That being said, what New Moon offers is a posthumous look at songs Smith had recorded during his tenure at Kill Rock Stars from the mid to late '90s that ended up on the cutting room floor. Smiths' prowess as a songwriter remains intact, even though this set is probably best served to seasoned converts; many tracks lack the luster that his proper albums offered.
-- DARCY CAPUTO