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Rufus at his most nakedly emotional
on 12 April 2010
This song-cycle - and yes, it is a song cycle in the classical sense of the phrase - showcases Rufus Wainwright at perhaps his most nakedly emotional. Although his songs are always strong, occasionally their brilliance can struggle to surface through complex band arrangements. Here, voice and piano complement each other - sometimes one taking the melodic lead and sometimes the other, layering themes and taking us through varied tone colours and emotional moods. Subject matter is not uniformly dark, as some have said, although these songs are preoccupied with emotion itself; grief for his dying mother, love for his family, memory, loss and a faith in the future as much as nostalgia for the past. It's also a huge compliment to Rufus's skill as a lyricist that the three settings of Shakespeare sonnets don't seem out of place thematically or emotionally. It's a seamlessly brilliant album, and as such there aren't really standout tracks - well, perhaps the breezily neurotic "Martha" and the lovely, paralysed "Zebulon".