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Music Review

Sophie Ellis-Bextor: Wanderlust review: 'A brave musical excursion'

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Released on Monday, Jan 20 2014

Sophie Ellis-Bextor's 'Wanderland' album cover
Artists are forever forced to adapt their sound to survive in the music industry, normally at the hands of label big-wigs to ensure they remain radio and chart friendly. For Sophie Ellis-Bextor, who parted ways with Universal after making her 2011 album Make A Scene to go indie, this is no longer an issue; and as such she's decided to completely shed her electropop skin for her fifth outing Wanderlust.

Instead, she's reinvented herself as a chamber pop balladeer of the Radio 2 kind, and it suits her surprisingly well; in part due to her recent stint on Strictly Come Dancing. Long time fans will find it difficult to overcome the absence of her usual synth-soaked power pop choruses, but her elegance and razor-sharp delivery that has been present since 2000's 'Groovejet' will provide some solace. And as doe-eyed lead single 'Young Blood' and shimmering 'Runaway Daydreamer' show, the results can be fantastically pretty.

The problem is that towards the album's back-end, its unusual charm has almost completely worn off. Aided by singer-songwriter Ed Harcourt - who produced and arranged the entire LP - the wistful arrangements and Eastern European-inspired strings mixed with forlorn lyrics about love ("I just can't escape the memories of mistakes" she sings on 'Until The Stars Collide') eventually turn from cute and classy to occasionally sappy and sentimental.

That said, opener 'Birth Of An Empire' offers some bite with a dramatic orchestral section, while '13 Little Dolls' packs the hardest punch as she sings about Russian folklore over rumbling drums. Wanderlust is a brave excursion into something surprisingly off-kilter for a traditionally top 40 popstar, and for the most part, she pulls it off with ease.



Watch the 'Young Blood' music video below:

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