Dean & Britta

Back Numbers

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The second offering from Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips (late of Luna) repeats many of the elements of their first record, L'Avventura. You'll find the same slick and warm Tony Visconti production, the mix of solid originals and obscure covers (they tackle the Troggs' "Our Love Will Still Be There," Donovan's "Teen Angel," Claudine Longet's "White Horses," and the Lee Hazlewood-penned "You Turned My Head Around"), and Phillips being more involved vocally than she was in Luna. Upon these strengths, the duo added the atmospheric guitar and keyboard talents of Sonic Boom, and that's about it. They didn't need to do much, anyway. The direction the duo had taken (trading in the melodic purity and mostly stripped-back sound of Luna for a more arranged and interesting sound) was long overdue, and the first album was a strong step toward something really good. Back Numbers is that something really good. Every aspect of the Dean & Britta experience has improved. The originals are stronger: the doo wop-influenced "Wait for Me," the melancholy "Crystal Blue R.I.P.," "Say Goodnight," a note-perfect Nancy & Lee-styled duet, and the lush ballad "The Sun Is Still Sunny" rank with the best things Wareham has done and sound like they could have been early-'70s AM radio hits. The covers are loads of fun, especially "You Turned My Head Around." It's a treat to hear Phillips cast aside her wonderfully sultry vocal style and really let loose on the chorus. The arrangements are inventive and lush, space-age chamber pop with no preciousness. Put simply, everything clicks on Back Numbers. Fans of Luna should be quick to embrace this new direction Dean & Britta have taken (as should lovers of witty and well-arranged pop). It takes the best parts of Luna, adds some emotional depth and some surface glitter, and ends up being the best thing either Wareham or Phillips has done for a long while.

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