Elvis Costello was angry last year, sneering and spitting his way through his taut and edgy album When I Was Cruel.
Note the past-tense in the title, because "cruel" doesn't at all describe the sound of Costello's new album, North.
"Reflective" is a much better word, and it applies to all 11 of the quiet, jazzy tunes on North.
It's a rainy-night, deserted-piano-bar kind of record, and if it seems like a departure for the eclectic English songwriter, perhaps that's not such a surprise.
He has, after all, been squiring around jazz chanteuse Diana Krall.
He's also spent his entire career experimenting with a broad range of influences, including such disparate elements as Lucinda Williams and Burt Bacharach.
His latest musical fancy finds him channeling a set of beautiful songs that blend into each other.
There are subtle differences between them, of course, such as the delicate melody on "Let Me Tell You About Her," or the exquisite vocal control he demonstrates on "When it Sings" and "When Green Eyes Turn to Blue."
But the whole record can slide by before you realize you've gotten past the third track, which is either a major attribute or unfortunate flaw.
Costello has said that fall seemed like the appropriate time to release the album, and he's right — the subdued songs are autumnal in their understated elegance.
They're just a bit too ephemeral to last until spring.