Thomas Dolby’s fifth studio album, A Map of the Floating City, came out last year and it was somewhat appropriately named as you practically require a map to assess all of the influences that go into Mr. Dolby’s musical compositions these days — from blues to jazz to calypso to zydeco. He passed through the DC metro area Sunday night in support of the album in a tour that gives one an opportunity to reflect on his strengths and weaknesses over the years.
A Map of the Floating City is Dolby’s first album in 20 years, so some growth and divergence in his sound is expected. Not surprisingly, as an older artist, he is much more sedate in his composition and performance. With his first two magnificent albums — The Golden Age of Wireless and The Flat Earth — Dolby was associated with the subgenre of music then identified as New Pop. It was bombastic and heavy on synthesizers, having grown out of the pure synth arias of the New Romantics. Producer Trevor Horn championed New Pop and his label ZTT Records supported the likes of Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Grace Jones.