Varieté marks Almond's 30th year as a recording artist. It is both his first album of original material in ten years and the first original material following his involvement in a traffic accident in 2004. An article in the Daily Mail calls the album "a suite of reflective tracks that add up to a personal record of his picaresque life." Much of it is self-produced and co-written with longtime collaborators Neal Whitmore and Martin Watkins.
The album was released in a standard one-disc jewel case and a limited edition two-disc digipak in a slip-sleeve version, featuring seven bonus tracks on the second disc.
Varieté received mixed reviews from critics. The Guardian describes a "nostalgic mood" but sees the album as "furrows already ploughed".The Daily Telegraph writes about Almond's lyrics stating that "his lyrical pen remains hilariously barbed" and calls the album "self-composed cabaret sleaze". The review in The Scotsman agrees that Almond is looking back with this album, returning "to old themes with alacrity" and summarises by calling Varieté "mischievous, lightweight fun compared to Almond's darker, more tortured journeys into European chanson".Simon Price in his review from The Independent calls the album "an autobiography and also a hymn to the underground" and states that Almond "is determined to squeeze life for its every last drop". The AllMusic review praises the production as flowing "freely from spare, late-night-in-the-cocktail-lounge settings to big, bold, orchestral statements". It also has further commentary on the bonus tracks available with the limited edition version of the album, stating that the "more minimal, acoustic-based" songs shine "a brighter light on Almond's songwriting abilities".