Usually, when coming across a new artist, the initial reaction is to ask "what have they done?" But in Elvis Costello's case, the more accurate question is "what hasn't he done?" The British singer-songwriter has been performing and composing music for over forty years and has managed to keep every album creative and different from the ones before. He began his long career as a rocker, but in every subsequent release, he has dipped toes into as many different genres as one could imagine. The diversity in his music and lyrics are so unique that one critic once described him as a "pop encyclopedia." Thanks to his many-genred aptitude, Costello has collaborated with a wide range of artists, from Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett to Kid Rock and even The Roots. He's slowed down a little in the last decade, but in 2018 he's brought out a new album with his backing band The Imposters, titled Look Now.
Off the bat, it's important to know that Look Now is not a magnum opus or a sprawling epic. But it is another quality page into Costello's deep book of repertoire. This time around, his genre of choice is what he describes as "uptown pop with a little swagger." In layman's terms, Look Now is well-crafted piano-based pop, with a relatively relaxed vibe. There isn't a large amount of his signature cleverness, instead, the album is more introspective and relies more on lyrical narratives.
The album opens with "Under Lime," which is an eerie tale about a washed-up singer's predatory advances towards a young female intern. Next comes one of three collaborations with Burt Bacharach, the slow piano jam "Don't Look Now." Other highlights include the Motown-flavored "Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter," a collaboration with Carole King, the cheesy "Unwanted Number," the surprisingly smooth Bossanova-influenced "Why Won't Heaven Help Me?" and the beautiful closer, "He's Given Me Things." There's a tenderness in Costello's distinct vocals that fit the softer vibe.
Ultimately, Look Now goes to show that Elvis Costello can decide to write pretty much anything he wants and it will still sound great. Look Now may not be his most ambitious or crazy album, but it's got quality songs that are well arranged, and his fans will welcome it into his extensive catalog with open arms.