Carrie & Lowell
Sophie Ellis-Bextor has decided on a change of tack. It's a welcome one.
Whether this was always the intention after her graceful – if ultimately unsuccessful – turn on Strictly Come Dancing is hard to say, but Wanderlust sees Ellis-Bextor embracing that dreaded word 'maturity'. Thankfully she sacrifices none of her charm.
To be honest, diminishing returns probably put paid to the dance bangers she'd explored on her last few albums. The hits had dried up. But even if it is expedience that's forced Ellis-Bextor to try out baroque-pop, big ballads and a sprinkling of light indie – and pare down her collaborator list to just soulful troubadour Ed Harcourt – it suits her. Of course, it helps that the songs are, almost without exception, marvellous.
Tales of hopeless affairs, everlasting love and exotic travel are told through the prism of grand, stagey pop – Birth Of An Empire – minor-key Charlotte Gainsbourg-like romance – Until The Stars Collide – and even a stab at jerky old-time rock'n'roll – 13 Little Dolls.
There's room for the heart-stinging ballad in Young Blood, a crackly 78rpm waltz on Interlude and a nod to her Britpop days with theaudience on The Deer & The Wolf, but Wanderlust really peaks on the chamber-pop of Runaway Dreamer with Ellis-Bextor's voice at its most prim and gorgeous. A change in direction, however devised, has brought out the best in her.