“Eerie,” is how Rufus Wainwright describes his sixth studio album. “Essentially my mourning for my mother while she was still alive.” His mother, Canadian folk singer Kate McGarrigle, was diagnosed with cancer in 2006 and died this January, with her musical family harmonising around her.
But here Wainwright sounds very alone with his grief. The orchestral arrangements on his previous five albums had grown increasingly extravagant, and he scored his 2009 opera, Prima Donna, for 70 musicians. All that opulence has been stripped away here, to leave the 36-year-old singer with only his piano and his swooping, soaring, sighing emotions.