Life can be beautiful and downright ugly. Crazily brilliant or cruel beyond comprehension.

And in 2020, those jolting juxtapositions are more pronounced than ever before.

Even before coronavirus was thrown into the mix, you could be forgiven for wanting to self isolate yourself from all and sundry.

But in times of trouble, music is always the best medicine. And right on queue, bursting out of a metaphorical cocoon, is the impeccable timing of Mal Pope’s new album Butterfly.

It’s the first album from the Swansea songsmith in ten years and it’s something of a transformative one too – something hinted at by it’s creator’s decision to go under the monicker of his full name Maldwyn Pope.

His happy-go-lucky piano driven pop rock, that gained him fans from the likes of Elton John, has been replaced with new expansive and orchestra driven sound.

Look no further than opener Looking For Love – strings that sound like they’re the soundtrack to a key scene in a Hollywood blockbuster burst into action before Mal croons “You say I’m crazy / you might be right”.

The cinematic feel is also evident on House Keys and Make Up, a bittersweet ditty about the repetition of working life. There’s also Down In The City – which sounds like a curious mix of late-era Take That meets the storytelling of Fountains of Wayne’s Welcome Interstate Managers album.

And then there’s the raw honesty of Catch You – a song about regret and loss – as well as the candid Until The Morning with its revealing refrain of “Who Am I? / I’m Barely Scraping By”. Across the board, it’s an intriguing album. Luscious strings and well crafted songs with words to break your heart (and mend them again).

Bold, beautiful and breathtakingly honest too. A melodic masterpiece about the trials and tribulations of modern life. By the end of the album, the transformation is complete. Sure, change is never an easy process – but it’s always necessary.

Benjamin Wright, WalesOnline

Simon Price@simon_price01

Music recommendation: if you’re into the heartfelt, piano-based singer-songwriters of the Seventies, check out the album Butterfly, a lushly-orchestrated modern iteration of all that by Swansea-based Maldwyn Pope @malpope

open.spotify.com/album/4ADdrdCR

(Deep @LateNiteMinicab vibes.)