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Though the band is London-based, a continental air has colored the work of Tindersticks from the start. Curtains feels as if it has come from another time—decadent, romantic Weimar Berlin perhaps. The group’s first two albums (both eponymously titled) were moody, languorous listens abundant with the drama of love affairs, and sad ones at that. Much of Curtains continues in this vein. “Desperate Man,” “Are You Trying to Fall in Love Again?,” and others sketch particular moments in such romances, often the aftermath. While certain touch points (Serge Gainsbourg, Lee Hazlewood, Nick Cave) are still present, Curtains has a lighter feel than its predecessors. Singer Stuart Staples injects a little humor, a little more sex, and even a bit of schmaltz into the narrative. “Ballad of Tindersticks” is a telling travelogue of the ‘Sticks in America, getting drunk on champagne and martinis, getting $2,000 haircuts in L.A., feeling empty and cheated. It’s a window onto the ridiculous world of showbiz, funny yet chilling. On “A Marriage Made in Heaven,” Staples duets with Isabella Rossellini, recalling Gainsbourg/Birkin with a knowing wink. While Staples mumbles and stumbles through much of Curtains as though finding his way home after a late-night drunk, he croons clearly on “I Was Your Man”: “You’ve got a smile that never reaches your eyes/You want to try and do something right/So take me home tonight/Turn out the light/You’re just alone in the dark.” Although the album finds Staples finding romance more often than losing it, Tindersticks remain well acquainted with dissatisfaction. Curtains makes experiences both miserable and romantic intimately ours.

—John Dugan