Songs in A&E (Sanctuary)

In British parlance, A&E denotes accident and emergency, essentially the same thing as our ER. So the title of this album is certainly not referring to musical keys.

After an extended hospital stay, Spiritualized's Jason Pierce (aka Jason Spaceman) has returned to the world of the living with a semi-autobiographical album dedicated to the staff of the Royal London Hospital. And once again, Pierce is burdened with the baggage of his highly publicized lifestyle choices and the accompanying junkie/savant mythology. But Pierce's recent forays into the netherworlds of consciousness have produced more than the predictable odes to Morpheus.

With A&E, Pierce and his band deliver a sound similar to their last album, 2003's Let it All Come Down, a lush, Spector-esque mix of gospel and psychedelia. Thankfully, however, the new material is truncated to more acceptable lengths. Rather than romanticizing the near-death limbo of addiction, as he has in the past, Pierce is apparently intent on embracing life for once. There are creepy, questionable, and surrealist lyrics aplenty, but the album has an unexpected and intangible humor to it, peppered with what might even be an occasional glimmer of hope. And the music is downright beautiful—this is one of those albums you can listen to 100 times, with each subsequent listen revealing another nuance. Highly recommended.