PATRICK WOLF at the Music Gallery (197 John), Tuesday (September 25), 7 pm. $25. PDR, RT, SS, TM. See listing.
This year has been one of jubilees. The Queen, the Rolling Stones and Kylie Minogue marked 75, 50 and 25 years in the public eye respectively.
Clocking in at 10 years is Patrick Wolf, a baritone-voiced English-Irish musician whose five albums have inspired music scribes to affix all manner of adjective to the word "pop," including synth, chamber, techno, glam, pastoral, youthful and angry.
"Acoustic pop" is the best way to describe the 29-year-old's latest, Sundark & Riverlight, a double album of back-catalogue songs that he'll release on Tuesday (September 25) via his Bloody Chamber imprint.
Inspired by Joni Mitchell's 2002 orchestral album Travelogue, Wolf reviewed the 99 songs he's written, selected 21 that resonate with him today and re-recorded them using analog tape and gear in Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios in Bath, UK. The 16 included on the album "represent what I want to take into the future with me as a performer," he says.
"I wanted to make something a bit like a songbook," he explains over the phone from Brooklyn. "Whereas I've always strived in my production to make things hard to imitate, with this one I wanted people to pick up a guitar or piano and cover the songs kind of like standards."
The rearrangement process was straightforward, but revisiting the last decade of his life proved more emotionally fraught. "It was fun but also very exorcising," he says. "Even within the optimistic songs I found a lot of misery."
The decision to forgo new material was also partly a reaction to the personal nature of his 2011 LP, Lupercalia, a collection of heady pop tunes that chronicled the previous three years of his romantic relationship.
"I'd done something that was very much a confessional about my relationship, and then had to go and explain it in the press for a year," he says.
"I do feel a little bit more withdrawn as a writer, but that's exciting to me because it's probably when I do my best work. It's not really about anybody else. It's about what I need to write about my life to get by."