Album Review: 'Wanderlust'
Published: Friday, January 24, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 24, 2014 00:01
Three years after the release of her last album, British singer-songwriter Sophie Ellis-Bextor returns with “Wanderlust,” a gothic-pop concoction that is a far cry from her disco-inspired tunes of the past. This is her fifth album, and it attempts to shake up Ellis-Bextor’s dance-music image, a task made possible through the help of producer Ed Harcourt. Although “Wanderlust” certainly finds Ellis-Bextor out of her comfort zone, the album becomes caught up in its contriteness and ultimately leaves no lasting impression.
From the moment that the Arabian-inspired strings open on “Birth of An Empire,” it is clear that Ellis-Bextor intends to follow her wanderlust to every far-fetched place that it may take her. Yet, in doing so, the album immediately begins to fall prey to cliche. Overdramatic titles are given to melodramatic melodies, made even more so through contrite lyrics.
On a few occasions, such as in “The Deer & The Wolf” and “Cry To The Beat Of The Band,” Ellis-Bextor’s vocal talent and pop sensibilities shine through. Her voice rings clearest on the album’s single “Young Blood,” where she displays considerable range and impressive power. Yet the dreary melody renders the song almost difficult to listen to, and this problem is consistent throughout the album.
One of the album’s lowest points appears in the form of “13 Little Dolls,” which sounds like a jazzed-up Evanescence reject. The overly gothic lyrics and upbeat tempo lead to an uncomfortable juxtaposition that doesn’t make for easy listening. While an admirable departure from the disco tunes Ellis-Bextor has released in the past, songs like this paint a picture of an artist with no sign of some clear newfound direction.
Overall, “Wanderlust” seems to be the sonic representation of a 13-year-old’s “gothic” tumblr. Each song is so tightly crafted to resemble a sweet yet dark ballad, that they all quickly begin to blur into one, making for a dull overall album. Ellis-Bextor seems to want to give some neo-gothic image of her singing softly, lying on a four-poster bed covered in wilted roses as she bemoans her sadness. But, as a 34-year-old music industry veteran, it’s hard to imagine exactly what inspired Ellis-Bextor to aim for this image in the first place.
While Ellis-Bextor’s desire to re-vamp her persona is admirable, “Wanderlust”’s results are less so. The step into a complete sonic departure is difficult to take, and it is understandable that Ellis-Bextor has faltered along the way. Following the relative lack of success met by her 2010 album “Make a Scene,” Ellis-Bextor had every reason to change her melody. Here’s hoping that next time the results are a little more genuine.