A Cork Tale Wake
If only this album had maintained the standard of its opener, Serpentine, it would have been a shoo-in for one of the most perfect discs in an age. As it is, the rest of the album is simply excellent. This is his fouth album, but his first major 'indie' push, now that the world may be ready for him.
Bathgate is a kind of goth-folkie - Sufjan Stevens as done by Gomez with Nick Cave sensibility, so the stars are clearly aligned. His voice has a wonderful cello-like timbre, and most of the instrumentation gives it plenty of dry, cold space in which to work - the songs typically build towards a powerful acoustic climax. Serpentine doesn't use any tricks - it is an astonishing song, which will leave you with the cold sweat of addiction after its harsh driving piano and cello have quietened down. There are 3 or 4 songs here that would be among the best things that Damien Jurado or Magnolia Electric Co had done. The Michigan that Sufjan Stevens used as inspiration is suffused through this Ann Arbor musician's album like a chill light. This is his best album to date, his most mature set of songs. Serpentine will get you on first listen - you just have to prepare to be haunted by it for months to come.