Since 2008’s Momofuku, his last album with The Imposters—essentially his original band, The Attractions, with a different bassist—Elvis Costello has, as he is wont to do, dabbled in a range of other genres. There’s been bluegrass and rootsy Americana with T Bone Burnett; even funky, hip-hop-infused soul with The Roots. While he tackled those outings with reverence and exuberance—the results were gorgeously unique in a way that only he could achieve—his 25th album, Look Now, feels like that most comfortable pair of jeans. Coming after Costello's announcement of a successful recovery from cancer surgery, this welcome return to the styles (and the bandmates) that first elevated him mixes sophisticated pop-rock with singer-songwriter fare that’s as opulent as it is introspective.
“Under Lime” and “Unwanted Number” are classic Costello rockers, full of '60s-inspired soul hooks and swooping minor-key changes that hit on a visceral level. So is “Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter,” a cowrite with Carole King 20 years in the making, with a chorus that sounds lifted from Gaucho-era Steely Dan. And if tunes like “Photographs Can Lie” or “Stripping Paper”—particularly its tinkling piano intro—sound like the work of another songwriting legend, it’s no accident: Costello's frequent collaborator Burt Bacharach helped pen a number of the record's aching chamber-pop ballads.