Maxwell’s first offering in seven years forms the second instalment of a trilogy of albums that are titled identically but for the position of the capital letters. The Grammy-winning soul man is a subeditor’s nightmare, but confusion seems a small price to pay for such a classy comeback collection of anguished R&B. While he’s been away, the man has mourned family members, turned 40 and listened to the xx, whose eerie spaciousness is audible. Mostly, though, the music provides a minimalist, synthesiser-laden vehicle for smoothly introspective contemplations on love. The Fall traces romantic ups and downs like the seasons, rather than paying unlikely tribute to Salford’s finest. Fingers Crossed is sublime, Prince-like redemptive soul. Maxwell is singing wonderfully, from the airy falsetto in 1990x to the beautiful vulnerability in Listen Hear. Lost remodels him as urban bluesman, while the almost illegally seductive Lake By the Ocean befits his reputation for providing soundtracks for making babies.
Dave Simpson is a Guardian music critic and author