All Days are Nights: Songs for Lulu
By Eileen Tilson
With the overflow of of emo, touchy-feely singer-songwriter music flowing out of the speakers these days, it is very rare to find a musician so emotionally raw that he makes time stand still. And yet, take a Judy Garland obsessed songwriter and his piano, and you get Rufus Wainwright’s latest album, All Days are Nights: Songs for Lulu, a powerful outpouring of penned statements to his family and loved ones. As famous as Wainwright is for being able to jump from genre to genre, traipsing around through pop, opera, and show-tunes, this is Rufus at his most honest.
For his sixth album, it is a “back to basics” approach for him; this is soul-searching music, which makes even more sense when you consider when one of his idols, his mother, folk singer Kate McGarrigle, was dying of cancer when the album was written and recorded. In fact, her ghost seems to haunt every song on this album, causing Wainwright to dive deeper into his already twisted soul: “ Sad with what I am/ Never met a more repressed motionless cad/ Sad with what I have except you.”
Never shy to air his laundry through his music, “Martha” is a dubbed phone message to his sister, asking whether she had reached out to their parents because time is running out. “The Dream” is definitely the most accessible of tunes on the record, evoking the essence of Liszt, with his erratic decent of scales. There is a very tangible emotional presence throughout the 12-song serenade, topped off by Wainwrights ability to remain artistically sound. Not entirely confessional, there are three tracks adapted from Shakespearean sonnets, and also Wainwright’s “Les Feux D’Artifice T’Appelent,” the closing aria from Prima Donna, his opera which premiered worldwide in Manchester last year.
“Zebulon,” arguably the most heart-wrenching song on the album, is a simple tribute to his late mother, closing the diary of Rufus. Slow piano chords are the backdrop for perhaps the most defining lyric throughout the work of art: “ My mother’s in the hospital, my sister’s at the opera, I’m in love, but let’s not talk about it.”
This is not a collection of songs to play if you are feeling chipper, but if it is raining and you are feeling particularly introspective, pour a glass of wine and let your ears simmer, this is a sad, exquisite collection that will linger with you even after the sun comes up.