Last year, Patrick Wolf dropped his debut album Lycanthropy on my unsuspecting ears and it ended up being one of my favorite albums of the year. Considering the album came from the mind of a teenager, I found myself not only a bit humbled, but also excited at the prospects of what he would do next. Following quickly on the heels of his first release is this newest effort that seems to reign things in ever-so-slightly and in the process take away some of what was so great about the first album.
The opening several tracks of the album pick up right where the first disc left off, though, and they're some of the best songs on the entire release. "The Libertine" builds from glitchy clicks and piano into a galloping (literally, with the sounds of sampled horse clomps) track accented by strings and a lumbering bassline while Wolf continues his great lyrical streak in which he seems to blend literary references effortlessly with modern-day commentary and personal freedom. "Teignmouth" follows, and while it slows things down with a static-filled beat and a more typical structure, it soars with gorgeous layered strings and vocals.
The next section of the album finds Wolf stripping things back a bit and calming them down, and while none of the songs are laborious, they don't simply have the same attraction as much of the other work. The album-titled "Wind In The Wires" is pretty, but doesn't have the catchy hooks of other tracks while several short tracks like "Apparition" and "Jacobs Ladder" feel like out-of-place track sketches more than anything else.
On the other side of things, its easy to hear that Wolf has polished his vocal skills even more since his last disc, giving him an even greater range. The acoustic "The Railway House" is easily the most expressive he's ever been without resorting to screams and yelps and the lovely ending of "This Weather" more than makes up for the slow building beginning with a lush closing crescendo. Along with the first track on the release, it's "Tristan" that draws the most comparisons to his previous album by mixing ragged guitars and loud vocals with thumping beats that ooze with lots of distortion. It's one of the more straightforward 'pop' tracks on the release, but also one of the best. As mentioned above, Wine In The Wires just feels a bit more hesitant than Lycanthropy, and while there are some great tracks, it doesn't quite have the same energy that his debut did.