Sophie Ellis-Bextor - Wanderlust
My earliest memory of Sophie Ellis-Bextor's unique vocal delivery involved me sitting in the back of my Father's car, listening to her now iconic contribution to Spiller's 'Groovejet' during the summer of 2000. Indeed, its radio-friendly nature led to it being played on nearly every London radio station multiple times every hour as a result of its bumper sales and chart-topping credentials. Thus, Sophie Ellis-Bextor's musical lane was determined, and she released a further four records that were geared, mostly, for the dancefloor, most recently with the gloriously punchy electro-pop of 2011's Make A Scene.
Yet, whereas her signature sound was once a rather unique quality amongst a guitar-heavy musical landscape, the last few years have brought with them a wave of electro-pop based hits, with the likes of Cheryl Cole and Rihanna working with Calvin Harris to create blisteringly effective fusions of dance and pop that sold by the bucket load. In short, Ellis-Bextor's signature sound had become somewhat of an ignored voice in a crowded marketplace.
As such, it is no surprise that for her fifth studio effort, Ellis-Bextor has gone back to the drawing board to develop a whole new sound. Indeed, if there's one place above all over places that Wanderlust wasn't made for - it's the dancefloor. Instead, Wanderlust makes for a delightfully light listen that is destined to accompany the cooking of Sunday roasts and the reading of Saturday papers across the U.K. It's music that's inoffensive, yet not boringly so. Lead single 'Young Blood' acts as the perfect introduction to her new sound. Musically, the sweeping strings and light piano accompaniment act as a perfect bed for Ellis-Bextor's trademark vocals - a vocal delivery here that really channels the meaning of the lyrics. Similarly, 'Love Is A Camera' is a waltz-like slice of pop that never quite goes where you think it will. Reminiscent of Kylie Minogue's iconic collaboration with Nick Cave, it boasts of a big, memorable chorus and a thundering final forty-second section. Best of all is '13 Little Dolls' - an infectious, musically adventurous tour-de-force lesson in how to go up-tempo without a Euro-house element in sight.
Not everything is as brilliant; the first few tracks are perfectly nice, if rather too similar to each other. It is not until the record hits its halfway point that it truly makes for an exciting listen, but the musicality is consistent throughout - gorgeous instrumentation and inspired production choices elevate what would otherwise be a rather unremarkable first section into something rather lovely. Tracks like 'The Deer and The Wolf' and 'Runaway Dreamer' aren't musically adventurous at all, but they run short of being unremarkable as a result interesting production and instrumentation and Ellis-Bextor's unique vocal delivery.
As such, Wanderlust has more hits than misses, and clearly places Sophie Ellis-Bextor as a versatile artist that can successfully step outside her musical comfort zone with ease. Of course diehard fans of old may be slightly disappointed by this radical change in sound, but Wanderlust is a record that has the potential to create a whole fan base for Sophie. Indeed, this is a fan base that will have seen Sophie during her recent stint on BBC One's glitzy ratings hit 'Strictly Come Dancing' and come to invest in her as an individual. For an artist that ran the risk of fading into the background of a pop landscape full of Mileys and Rihannas, it's a smart move. Indeed, Wanderlust isn't the most exciting or boundary pushing of listens, but then again it never claims to be. Sometimes, a simple of set of brilliantly written songs are all you need to create a great album. Wanderlust, as such, makes for a rather lovely listen.