Canada’s Royal Wood, who in these last ten years has made a name for himself in cabaret pop, switches gears on his sixth release for a more rock-oriented effort. Gone are the ragtime flourishes that were once his signature. Opting for a more direct approach, Wood focuses more on grooves than he does atmosphere, placing emphasis on the rhythm section and dabbling a bit more with drum loops and samples. Still present (and always the centerpiece) is his magnificent croon, delivered with restraint and yet rich enough to give each of these tunes a dusky shading. Wood’s previous albums were works that featured primarily twilit numbers, with songs of emotional longing and heartache. Wood shifts his worldview into the sunlight and trades in his languorous lamentations for an increase in bpms. The lean, cool beats of “Not Giving Up” sparkle with his usual instrumentation of piano and guitar, the chorus wallpapered with a small but sinewy string-section and the sound of a gong ringing through the mix. “I Want Your Love” features the low buzz of electric guitar and some soft touches of synth-pop to round out the edges; it’s a bolder move away from his noir-lush jazz-pop that put him on the radar of Toronto’s music scene a decade back. If you still pine for the late-night lugubrious pop of his previous days, you’ll find them in “Will We Ever Learn” and “I’ll Be Gone”, both numbers featuring a caramel-wrap of orchestral arrangements that lavishes upon the singer’s affecting vocals rather sweetly and thick. No matter what musical element he is in, Royal Wood imparts his songwriting with the same qualities evocative of his very name: lustre and class.
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