This English art-pop eccentric has said that "The Bachelor," his fourth studio disc, was originally intended to be the first half of a double album about "my father's cancer, my solitude, my true love, my Irish roots, everything that has touched me to the core in the last year," as he wrote recently in a typically grandiloquent MySpace post.
Don't let the fact that "The Bachelor" now arrives on its own lead you to believe that Patrick Wolf has scaled back his artistic ambitions; this is the only record likely to be released in 2009 with guest spots from both actress Tilda Swinton and Alec Empire, the German digi-punk guru.
Wolf covers a staggering amount of creative ground across these 14 tracks: In "Damaris," a lover's lament presumably titled after the New Testament figure, he's in winsome Pet Shop Boys mode, complete with heavy-breathing over booming synth stabs. "Hard Times" reimagines Arcade Fire's sweeping indie rock as a kind of handmade disco, while "Battle" thrashes with fuzzy heavy-metal guitars. Built atop a hushed organ hum, "Who Will?" is a hymn in all but name.
Listeners who are not acquainted with the idiosyncratic vocal stylings of Wolf's Britpop predecessors (think of Bryan Ferry, Dave Gahan and especially Morrissey) might find his singing too over the top to take seriously.
The way Wolf sees it, though, very serious topics require very dramatic treatment.