In pop, people hear and see what they choose to. This unfortunate truth guides the perception of Sophie Ellis-Bextor. Formerly an indie-band front-woman and vitreous vocalist to a superb DJ track, her actual solo career remains unfairly pigeonholed.
In regard to Bextor, it didn’t matter (to some) that she cut torch (“I Am Not Good At Not Getting What I Want“), needling new wave (“Catch You“) and synth dirges (“Starlight“), all anyone could “hear / see” was her neo-disco workouts. Always a pop singer first, Bextor tried to evince that with the intimate and smart Shoot From the Hip (2003); she was shot down unceremoniously. Fast forward a decade and Bextor is still doing her thing; her fifth long player, and second independent affair, Wanderlust is aptly titled.
In the great dance-pop departure tradition paved by Donna Summer, Kylie Minogue and Cathy Dennis, Bextor expands on her voguish trials with “under-the-radar” producer Ed Harcourt. The sum includes flights of Russian recherché and other tasty tidbits.
That voice is still unmistakable and it steers theaudience nod of “The Deer & The Wolf” and the tremulous lead single “Young Blood”. The latter is her riskiest opening move since “Catch You,” it unfurls within the narrative of the album magically and emotionally.
The aforementioned Russian rouge that colors the idiosyncrasies of “Birth of An Empire” and “Love Is a Camera” are ravishing, but what of the other considerable Mod-era flourishes? The Ronettes (“Runaway Daydreamer”), The Beatles (“13 Little Dolls”) and Dusty Springfield (“Until the Stars Collide”) are all touched upon and channeled through Bextor’s tea-time vocals and “heart-meets-mind” lyrical approach; it’s a delectable mixture that is coquette in its retro resurrection.
Wanderlust Promotional Video Sampler
At 11 cuts deep, Wanderlust is precise and doesn’t overstate itself. Looking at the United Kingdom’s current charts, they feel overtly influenced by American music; Wanderlust is unapologetically British in its experimental eagerness. Seeing other contemporaries struggle and set the torch down for pop music, Bextor knowingly picks it up. Her “simple and eternal” guiding principal of staying close to the changeability of the genre assures its survival in this turbulent time. Ranking: Classic