Sophie Ellis-Bextor

Familia

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Reuniting with collaborator Ed Harcourt, Sophie Ellis-Bextor offers an explicit sequel to the sophisticated cinematic pop of Wanderlust with Familia. Like that 2014 affair, Familia is lush and romantic, bearing a widescreen sensibility that contrasts nicely with Ellis-Bextor's natural reserve. She may be somewhat distant -- part of her charm is her glamorous remove; she doesn't beg the audience for its affection -- but she can scale the heights of Harcourt's arrangements, no matter if they're galloping neo-disco ("Wild Forever," "Come with Us") or overblown ballads ("Crystallise"). Much of Familia lies between these two extremes, but the midtempo adult alternative pop is sharp and clever: witness all the mariachi accents on "Hush Little Voices," something that finds a counterpart with the flamenco rhythms of the closer, "Don't Shy Away," or how "Here Comes the Rapture" maintains its tension via staccato strings. Familia is self-conscious, self-styled sophisticated pop, but its self-awareness is what makes it work: Ellis-Bextor and Harcourt work as hard at creating an alluring atmosphere as they do on the bones of the songs, and the result is striking and effective.

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