Jarvis: Jarvis Cocker

After 20-plus years fronting Pulp—one of the most beloved and consequential bands of the recent Britpop era—Jarvis Cocker goes it solo for Jarvis, a grand, tuneful record that sounds unsurprisingly like Pulp, but with a broader stylistic range. Cocker will always be Cocker, which means that even when he crosses The Righteous Brothers with tropical plunking on "Baby's Coming Back To Me," or samples Tommy James' "Crimson And Clover" on "Black Magic," the songs' basic forms remain Pulp-y, from their hyper-cinematic arrangements to their core of wizened melancholy. The main difference between Jarvis and Pulp's final album, We Love Life, is that the new record feels far less portentous, and more brightly poppy.

In the wake of Different Class, Cocker began taking his songwriting awfully seriously, resulting in some emotionally devastating music, little of which could be called "fun." On Jarvis, songs like the ominous-sounding "I Will Kill Again" stay in a lower, lighter key than Cocker has been using over the past decade. "I Will Kill Again" is a fully developed piece—with strings, piano and harmonium mixed together for maximum lushness—but it's fundamentally gentle, and stands out when balanced against songs like "Fat Children," which sets quirky lyrics to Blur-like indie-rock.

Still, even while whipping up trifles, Cocker retains his wit and poignancy. Both are present in "Baby's Coming Back To Me," where the hopefulness of the title also raises the specter of when "baby" will inevitably leave again. And Cocker's pulse is strong in "Black Magic," which repurposes a garage-rock classic to demonstrate how pop hits can aptly describe our interior selves.

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