The Divine Comedy

Britain's Neil Hannon, a.k.a. Divine Comedy, who is known for his wry sense of humor and singular worldview on the most mundane of subjects, hit his stride with the witty 1996 album, Casanova, and further cemented his reputation with 2001's Regeneration. Three years later on his ninth full-length, Absent Friends, he disposes of his onetime bandmates while putting himself at the center of his orchestral compositions.

Lush and soaring strings are the perfect backdrop for Hannon's ironic, comedic observations. He creates modern pop that is as timeless as Oscar Wilde (who is name-checked on the title track) in its sentiment, with an attitude as surly as a drunk Dean Martin, while addressing whimsical topics such as a businessman trying to make it home for his son's football game ("Come Home Billy Bird") and Hannon's imaginary childhood friends ("My Imaginary Friend"). With a dry, almost sinister tone, the tunesmith manages to make singing about "Happy Goths" in Doc Martens sound intensely important.

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Lily Moayeri