A theatrical hangover
Rufus Wainwright’s 2020 album, Unfollow the Rules, sounds hungover. This isn’t a bad thing. His light, yet mournful melodies feel like the morning after a party with the different moods depending on the track. Sometimes it sounds like the tired, but joyful cleaning up of glasses after a great night. Sometimes it sounds like he woke up at a gas station without his wallet. Throughout the album, there’s a theatrical sheen with overtones and influences from different styles. Wainwright is great at sounding a little like Radiohead, then a little like the late Beatles, then a little like Queen… all while somehow always sounding like himself.
“Trouble in Paradise” and “Damsel in Distress” are the strongest tracks. The forlorn melodies with the upbeat instrumentals and violins dipping in and out makes for a catchy and unique sound. “Peaceful Afternoon” takes a turn into a sunny waltz. He sings to a partner about how he wants to be with him for the rest of his life. As with much of Wainwright’s work, it’s a song of many adjectives. It’s whimsical, sweet and people can hear it played at a wedding or perhaps an anniversary party.
“Devils and Angels (Hatred)” is a refreshing track between two slower songs, with a surprising new wave element.
Unfollow the Rules has more than its share of gems that belong on people’s playlists. The conflict between downbeat and upbeat makes for an album one will want to sift through again and again.