I feel a bit like instead of writing reviews, I am basically just writing up my top albums for 2013 at the moment. The next few reviews, including this one, are basically going to be me gushing about music to the extent that you’ll think I’ve turned into one of those tedious backslapping blogs which just fucking loves everything, but I assure you I haven’t. I’m still a contrarian dickhead deep down.
Just under two years ago I wrote about Lady Lazarus’ last album Mantic, and it was an album which didn’t click entirely with me, despite most of the elements being absolutely spot on. Not that I didn’t like it, I really really did, I just had a series of small quibbles which for me stopped it ascending from the realms of being really good to being fucking brilliant.
I am going to go into those criticisms a little, primarily because I feel this album embodies why I found the last one slightly frustrating: I think All My Love in Half Light is the album Mantic seemed to be trying to be, but actually came within a whisker of properly achieving.
For starters, Mantic seemed a little long, perhaps more sprawling where this is self-contained. Not that it was a long album, but this one feels complete – as if all the right songs are there in all the right order, and that’s that.
Also, Mantic at times felt slightly one-paced. It’s hard with an album which is mostly just vocal and piano to give it the variation which it needs, but here that doesn’t seem to be a problem. There is a bit of accordion here and some cello there, but more than that, there seems to be an emotional rise and fall over the length of the record which means that you always feel like you are going somewhere, never just drifting.
The heavily reverbed piano and clear, unforced vocals are ghostly but never weak, and you end up with the impression of someone who is facing their troubles head on, prepared to suffer, but not to be beaten. In some ways, although less fragile, there are strong echoes of Perfume Genius here; it’s an obvious comparison, but none the less accurate for that.
The treatment of the piano gives it a tremendous chime when hit hard and a gorgeous shimmer when simply caressed, and this allows the intensity of the music to rise and fall, so that when the minimal embellishments of cello and accordion do appear they are much like the sparkle on the swell of the sea at night. That might seem a little flowery, but there is a dreaminess to this which encourages that sort of stuff.
It feels like it’s coming from a very similar place to its predecessor, actually. Only in this case all those wonderful ideas have been expressed more concisely, and all the meandering, filigree threads woven more tightly together into something more complete. It’s a lovely record, and I find myself wondering why I’m not reading about Lady Lazarus everywhere.