Sophie Ellis-Bextor reminded us all that she still existed when she took part in the 2013 series of Strictly Come Dancing. Prior to that we hadn’t heard much from the singer since the release of her fourth album Make a Scene back in 2011, which failed to make much of an impression in the charts peaking at a disappointing 33. Two and a half years on from that blip and Ellis-Bextor is back with her fifth studio album Wanderlust which is looking likely to be her biggest album since her 2001 debut Read My Lips.
With the Strictly effect clearly in full swing, Wanderlust has peaked at number 4 in the UK charts and held strong in the Top 10 since its release. The album marks a bit of a departure from the dancier sounds she’s experimented with during her career to date. Instead it embraces the indie sensibilities that have always been there but often hidden under layers of pop production. For the album Ellis-Bextor has teamed up with singer/songwriter/producer Ed Harcourt and fans got a taster of what was to come with the delicate lead single Young Blood.
Young Blood is quite unlike anything that Ellis-Bextor has released before combining her distinctive vocal with a beautiful piano melody. The song is her most emotionally honest yet and the new sound suits her down to the ground. Wanderlust kicks off with the dramatic strings of Birth of An Empire which serves to reintroduce you to Ellis-Bextor and also surprise you with a sound that isn’t typically one you’d associate with her.
Across the album Ellis-Bextor has created some real gems with Harcourt. The shimmering Until the Stars Collide is an early standout whilst Runaway Dreamer is a sumptuous delight that is the closest you’ll find to capturing the feel of a delightful daydream in musical form. Other standouts on the album are the punchy The Deer & The Wolf and the beat-driven Cry to the Beat of the Band.
Vocally Ellis-Bextor pushes herself on this record. At times her voice can be light and floaty but she gives it all she’s got on this record. Young Blood is perhaps the finest vocal on the record and it feels like the first time you’ve actually heard her really sing free from stifling production.
Some critics have taken aim at the album saying that the sound throughout is too similar. That isn’t a criticism we particularly agree with and actually we like the fact that sonically it doesn’t jump all over the place. Every song is perfectly sequenced taking you on a musical and lyrical journey. From the darker-edged 13 Little Dolls through to the gorgeous closer When The Storm Has Blown Over, every song deserves its place on the record.
Whilst we hope that Ellis-Bextor doesn’t completely ditch the dance sound, we’re interested to see where she takes her music next. Wanderlust is an album that is honest, beautiful and often surprising. It’s safe to say we never expected her to release a record like this but we love her all the more for having done so. Wanderlust is an album her fans will embrace and those who have never listened to her poppier output may actually seek out.