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When Jon DeRosa croons “don’t say goodnight” in the song of the same name – his rich voice tempting an unnamed companion for one last drink in an emptying bar-room – the soulful seduction puts into images A Wolf…‘s overriding atmosphere. Continuing the romantic night-music style established on last year’s Anchored EP, DeRosa’s first album under his own name confirms the New Jerseyite as an estimable find.
Both lyrics and delivery of “True Men” convey vintage interests (name-checking Robert Mitchum and William Holden and smoothly singing “I’ve played the part, I’ve played the fool” like a lovesick Sinatra), as does a smoky, jazz-flecked version of The Blue Nile’s “Easter Parade.” Elsewhere, there are echoes of Stephin Merritt (with whom DeRosa worked on Showtunes) and Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy, so while it would be a push to describe this as a unique record, it’s no exaggeration to call it an excellent one.
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A strong strain of pop classicism and a certain quantity of melancholy runs through this record. DeRosa’s deep, resonant voice reminds you first of Scott Walker and Richard Hawley but it’s not fanciful to go further back, to singers like Sinatra and Tony Bennett, especially when you hear DeRosa on his versions of the Blue Nile ’s ‘Easter Parade’ or the LD Beghtol song ‘Who Decides?’ The literate chamber pop – ‘True Men’ references Robert Mitchum and William Holden and is the source of the album’s title – puts you in mind of Stephin Merritt’s work while the orchestration is well-sourced, featuring a host of players including cellist Julia Kent from Antony & the Johnsons and Jon Natchez on trumpet. It’s a far cry from DeRosa’s ambient-pop project Aarktica.
Wolf… resurrects classic pop tropes, avoiding cliché or parody; ‘Say Goodnight’ is a lovesong with an unsalacious twist while ‘Teenage Goths’ is an insistent showtune despite the quirky title. But the standout song is the opening track; ‘Birds of Brooklyn’ is like the 60s as interpreted by Echo and the Bunnymen, accompanied by strings and brass, comfortably straddling the decades so that it sounds both classically old and glisteningly new. As a taster for the record, fans of the Magnetic Fields, Richard Hawley and late 60s Scott Walker (Scotts 3 and 4) should make a date to hear it.
From Leonard’s Lair in the UK:
“Upon encountering Jon DeRosa’s music, courtesy of last year’s Anchored EP, it was hard not to draw parallels between his journey and that of Richard Hawley. Both were largely unknown for their vocals in the early part of their career and then came to the forefront as modern day crooners some time later. A Wolf In Preacher’s Clothes is DeRosa’s first album and one wonders why his voice was hid away for so long.
The New Yorker’s delivery is rich, expressive and elegant like The Divine Comedy‘s Neil Hannon when he wasn’t being too theatrical.’Birds Of Brooklyn,’ ‘Ladies In Love,’ and ‘Teenage Goths’ revel in 1960’s classy trappings and ‘True Men’ harks back to the crooners of at least a decade further back. There’s even a respectful and very lovely cover of The Blue Nile‘s ‘Easter Parade,’ which emphasises the stark beauty of the original but also introduces a tender American viewpoint.
However, as it happens, DeRosa impresses most on the most modern-sounding material.’Snow Coffin’ came from the earlier EP and stands out for its light but insistent post-punk rumble whilst excellent last track, ‘Hollow Earth Theory.’ emphasises his indie songsmith credentials. A Wolf In Preacher’s Clothes is undoubtedly a classy album and the arrangements wisely put DeRosa’s vocals to the forefront. Having said that, if more risks were taken and he concentrates on post-1980’s styles and beyond, DeRosa could be pushed into levels of further greatness.”