“I used to do a lot of blow,” coos Martha Wainwright in Around the Bend, the lush opening number of her fifth solo album, amidst quaint acoustic arpeggios and a gentle shuffle of jazz brushes. It pierces through in a way that reminds you of why you fell for Wainwright originally, when she was a firebrand twenty-something that not only turned “bloody motherfucking arsehole” into a rallying cry, but into one of the defining hooks of the mid-2000s.
Now older, wiser and a mother of two, Wainwright approaches her craft with a little more finesse; in a manner that’s less forthright as her eponymous 2005 LP or the brilliantly-titled I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too. As such, Goodnight City takes the good (the delightful bookends of Franci and Francis) with the relatively-bad (a mid-album slump, the overlong runtime); all the while painting a portrait of a woman looking back, keeping an eye on her family and watching the wheels go ’round.
If you’ve fallen for Wainwright’s charm in the past, you’ll no doubt be pleased with what Goodnight City has to offer. If life begins at 40, dear Martha is ready to live life to the fullest.
By David James Young