A Map of the Floating City
Nearly 20 years since his last album, 1992’s Astronauts & Heretics, Thomas Dolby releases a concept album about a repressive society in the ‘40s “that might have existed had WWII turned out a lot differently,” according to Dolby. His pioneering work as a synth-pop artist in the ‘80s and as a much-heralded producer are to his advantage as he clearly understands how to assemble sound pieces that are gloriously avant-garde yet fascinating and accessible. “Spice Train” sounds like a computer program overloading. “Evil Twin Brother,” featuring Regina Spektor, is an arresting piece of spy-movie cabaret. “Nothing New Under the Sun” pulses with the same sense of purpose that Dolby once gave the work of Prefab Sprout. “A Jealous Thing Called Love” is a space-age reggae. “17 Hills,” with Mark Knopfler and fiddler Natalie MacMaster, is soothingly conventional singer/songwriter fare. “The Toad Lickers,” with Imogen Heap, samples bluegrass. “Love Is a Loaded Pistol” heads to the back of the piano bar. “To the Lifeboats” features a classic sound that works from a whisper to a scream.