Wet cobblestone streets, French cigarettes, a dog-eared copy of Les Fleurs du Mal, the tepid tears of orphans—these are the things of the Tinderstick universe. An English band known for its moody and melancholic sound (a welcomed antithesis to mid-'90s Britpop), the group has taken a decisive turn here on their fifth release toward a more free-flowing, upbeat soul sound. Deep-throated vocalist/guitarist Stuart Staples is in usual fine form, especially on the slow dread beauties (the opener, “Dying Slowly” as bleak as it sounds but buoyed by lovely melodies). The Sticks’ sextet combines the elegant angst of Nick Cave with the lyrical narration of a Lee Hazelwood and layers it within a lush, violin-and-keyboard-shaped ambiance—their masterful use of strings and percussion having always elevated them above other pop bands. Here, the band lets loose and experiments with tempo and rhythm more readily. Recorded in winter (how surprising), this album has nowhere near the dark, dense beauty of the ‘97 masterpiece Curtains but is interesting nonetheless as a rare form of sweet-and-sour soul. With this group, there are always moments of broken-hearted genius shining through like moonlight on a still black lake, though this time they seem to have lightened up a bit.