Patrick Wolf burst onto the music scene a couple years back with his Lycanthropy album, a debut that seemed wise beyond his teenage years both musically and lyrically. He followed it with the slightly more subdued Wind In The Wires, and while that sophomore album seemed to tackle more serious themes, it still had a couple breakout moments of effervescent pop that seemed to find the young artist wrestling with his identity.
First impressions make it seem like The Magic Position is about to throw introspection to the wind, as it opens with a handful of tracks that burst forth with an energy that's nearly unrelenting for the first section of the album. "Overture" starts things off with pounding drums and layered strings before shifting into a lighter electronic pop section that opens up and highlights the vocals of Wolf as the song steadily gains momentum while pressing forward. "The Magic Position" bursts out the other side, and it might be one of the most gleeful songs that Wolf has ever done, starting out with some cheering kids samples and really gets cracking with see-sawing strings, subtle horns and sing-song vocals that play off the bouncy beats.
It doesn't stop there, though, and he blasts right into "Accident & Emergency," another buoyant track that flutters with chopped-up vocal samples, horns, live drumming samples, and overlapping electronics that gurgle and glint behind the soaring, theatrical vocals of Wolf. After another electro-pop gem in "Bluebells," the album takes a pretty dramatic turn for the second half, and it's here that Wolf again seems to lose focus a bit in places.
"Magpie" finds him in an odd duet that swirls with melancholy piano and strings, but never really takes off, while incidental tracks like "The Kiss" and "Secret Garden" are little more than feedback drones and a track that sounds like an unfinished sketch, respectively. The slower "Augustine" is a standout amongst them, a shuffling, slightly jazz-inflected track that again finds Wolf spilling out some of his best vocals on the entire release while keeping things understated but interesting musically.
There's one more over-the-top moment of electronic pop during "(Let's Go) Get Lost," and the 8-bit synths, chunky drums and strummed acoustic guitars seem to hint at what he let loose with during the front end of the release. While there aren't any downright bad tracks on The Magic Position, it does have several places where it seems to lose a bit of focus before honing back in on things again. Given that he's always been a bit overindulgent, it should come as no surprise that he does the same thing here in places. That said, it's still a great release from a young musician who doesn't seem to want to sit still and settle on one sound.