Sophie Ellis-Bextor

Wanderlust

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Always a dedicated follower of fashion, twisting and turning her music to fit the times, Sophie Ellis-Bextor takes an accurate gauge of the styles of 2014 on Wanderlust. Swinging away from the electro-pop that defined the earliest days of her solo career, Ellis-Bextor opts for an exercise in handsome retro glamour here, a move perhaps partially inspired by Lana Del Rey, the Californian queen who has a virtual patent on neo-Hollywood glamour, but Ellis-Bextor retains a European sensibility, spending as much time with big ballads and cabaret as she does with doomed soundscapes. More importantly, she's enlisted Ed Harcourt as her collaborator for Wanderlust, and he gives these songs a glam grandiosity that is explicitly theatrical yet rarely excessive. As a producer, Harcourt creates an opulent setting for Ellis-Bextor's defiantly mannered vocals, and the contrast is often alluring; the music emotes whenever the singer refuses to indulge. Wanderlust is at its best when it's slightly dexterous (as on the girl group homage "Runaway Daydreamer") and it can get bogged down in pretension (as on the ceaseless pomp of "Love Is a Camera"), but it's always exquisitely sculpted and better for its attention to detail.

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