Storytelling is largely a lost art in rock'n'roll, but no one seems to have told Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker. On We Love Life, he and his U.K.

Storytelling is largely a lost art in rock'n'roll, but no one seems to have told Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker. On We Love Life, he and his U.K.-based bandmates give life to some of the most astonishing narratives imaginable, be they told from the perspective of plants ("Weeds") or a grieving lover lashing out at nature ("The Trees"). Cocker paints vivid pictures like no other, never better than on the eight-minute "Wickerman." Nearly tangible images (sludgy rivers, dilapidated amusement rides, empty factories) are wed to bittersweet memories and crowned with emotive, string-laden backing that drives it all home with uncommon power. The music here is just as compelling, from the glorious romantic kiss-off "Bad Cover Version," the spacious guitar rock of "The Night That Minnie Timperley Died," and the mystic trip-hop and whispered intonations of "Weeds II (The Origin of the Species)," perhaps the sexiest song ever written about botany. One of the year's best.—JC