Sophie Ellis-Bextor delivers a perfectly balanced sixth record
Sophie Ellis-Bextor made an important and unexpected career switch when she launched her 2014 album Wanderlust. All of a sudden she was no longer the disco and electro pop diva we knew for years, but changed into a pop singer-songwriter with a much slower band sound. Although she might have disappointed some fans here, she definitely gained new ones as well, with the album entering top 5 in the UK. She is hoping to achieve the same with the well balanced follow up, Familia.
Interestingly, Sophie Ellis-Bextor opened the campaign for the new record with the disco inspired first single ‘Come With Us’. Although the sound was more organic then her pre Wanderlust material, the upbeat vibe and irresistible catchiness was back. The only other track that matches this upbeat vibe is the highly enjoyable album opener ‘Wild Forever’ with subtle synths and a lighthearted atmosphere. This however does not mean that the rest of the album is not catchy as almost every track is graced with stunning melodies, strong hooks and engaging instrumentals.
Sophie Ellis-Bextor and producer Ed Harcourt both went on a holiday in Latin America and drew inspiration from the local culture, complex mythological characters and the families created both by blood and by friendship, as explained in the new biography uploaded on Sophie’s website. The Latin American influences in terms of sound become apparent in some unusual instrumentation throughout the album and the rhythms of the subtly swinging closer ‘Don’t Shy Away’ and the fragile but stunning promo single ‘Unrequited’. Ellis-Bextor and Harcourt often went for instrumentations full of strings to underline the vivacious characters of their melodies and this turned Familia in an atmospheric and classy pop record.
If one of the tracks of the album deserves a electro/disco Sophie make-over, it is definitely ‘Here Comes The Rapture’. The piano and strings driven piece would make a great dancefloor filler with a beat and a slightly faster pace. This might be an idea for a possible remix album, just like the Wandermix edition she released for Wanderlust. The track is wonderful as it is however and shows off how versatile Sophie’s vocals actually are. She always had a distinctive voice, also in her more dancey days, but the natural tone of her voice comes out beautifully in this type of track, or a classic ballad like ‘Crystallise’.
Familia feels like a natural progression to Wanderlust. The folky element of her singer-songwriter pop is still there, but this time around she and Harcourt did dare to go a bit more uptempo and take their experiments a little further. Her songwriting paints vivid images with both mythical fairytales and personal stories. Her vocals seem to get more meaning with every album. Sophie Ellis-Bextor found a beautiful balance on Familia.
Must listen: Come With Us, Unrequited, Here Comes The Rapture, Crystallise, Wild Forever