An unexpected treasure-trove of perfectly accomplished heartfelt melodrama
You know how it is at the end of they year - Christmas signifies rush-releases of piss-poor compilations of spotty boy-bands who shouldn't have the cheek to even call themselves a 'band'. Or repackaged, deluxe, remixed, glossy old cobblers performed by a squawking strumpet with a penchant for clothing errors. Gah, it makes you yearn for something better.
So, while you're all busy bustling around the High Streets with your mind on buying execrable bollocks, the rest of us will be settling down to a quiet night in with Jon DeRosa. Not personally, you understand, but rather with his spankingly superb album. Wolf in Preacher's Clothing comes from a man who has fronted a goth-rock outfit called Dead Leaves Rising, ensconced himself in the atmospheric hinterland of instrumentalists Aarktica, teased listeners with a role in Stephen Merritt's "The Peach Blossom Fan" and finally went the whole hog as a soloist last year with the EP "Anchored".
It's hardly surprising to hear elements of these projects contained somewhere on these ten songs, but what does strike you is DeRosa's capable crooning. Sounding not unlike a teen-idol and writing like a stalwart, this man is equal parts Neil Hannon, Richard Hawley, Scott Walker (the '60s version), Bobby Darin and DeRosa himself.
With an undiminished approach to quality, not one song on Wolf's disappoints, from opener (and single) Birds Of Brooklyn to the concluding and brooding Hollow Earth Theory - the whole set works a treat, with each track acting as a window into the reflective mind of DeRosa and an antidote to the hideous fluff found on the radio. Nine of the songs are his own (as far as I can make out from the promo download) and one isn't - a cover of The Blue Nile's gorgeous Easter Parade that is actually up there with the original, if not quite as minimal then certainly as calming.
Among these fine efforts are two exemplary tunes that stand out for me - True Men and Snow Coffin. The former is very Hawley-esque and evokes the sort of weepy retro ballad that Cliff Richard made his own back in the '60s (Cliff could seriously sing in those days, oh ye cynical gits), while Snow Coffins is upbeat and reminiscent of Wilco in its execution. And there's that voice once again.
If I was to pick one song that borders on the ordinary I'd pick Ladies In Love, but it's still a decent slice of chamber-pop nonetheless. If you thought you'd heard the year's best albums already, think again and go seek this out.