The Magic Position, the third album by young Patrick Wolf, hints of a great songwriting leap forward from his dark and pretentious previous work. Listeners whose stereo died after the first five songs might even be tricked into thinking they were in the presence of a modern pop classic. The nimble string arrangements and joyous stomping rhythm of the title track practically bound from the speakers, and the pairing of gently stammering laptop beats and lush sweeping choruses on “Accident and Emergency” and “Bluebells” keeps things moving from strength to strength.
But the pop thrills halt there. The Marianne Faithful-assisted yet numbingly dull gothic folk of “Magpie” begins a string of four patience-testing slow songs. Wolf’s deep baritone sounds too theatrical, too bloodlessly phony to make these plodding dirges compelling. To put them all in a row is a puzzling crime against track sequencing. The jaunty “Get Lost” momentarily restores some of the record’s early charm, but it’s only a minor blip on a downward slope. The tease of promise and the subsequent letdown make The Magic Position feel more like a missed opportunity than a legitimate breakthrough album.