Pop Corner: Sophie's new offering a chamber-pop oddity
Published 24/01/2014 | 16:30
You'd struggle to name a pop maverick in a climate that equates brandishing a guitar or stripping off as ways of proving your authenticity or how in control you are.
And you mightn't immediately think of Sophie Ellis-Bextor in that role. But now she's adding to her credentials as a pop star with depth.
Best known for gems like Murder on the Dancefloor and for her vocals on early 2000s dance hit Groovejet, she's always been an unusual presence. Her mannered but arresting vocal style and posh girl turned fashion model appearance give her a unique quality.
In 2011, she self-released an album comprised of dance tunes and various singles, after struggling with her major label. This week, she self-released again with her fifth album Wanderlust and it shows her knack for doing her own thing despite outside pressures.
Ellis-Bextor recently competed on the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing, a huge boost in profile for a star who hasn't had a hit single in years. But instead of using the Strictly platform to land an obvious hit she's releasing her most experimental set ever.
Gone are the synths and club beats, and in their place Wanderlust is a chamber-pop oddity that sounds like Lana Del Rey and Kate Bush given that icy Ellis-Bextor treatment.
On paper it shouldn't work, but thanks to lush strings and well-penned lyrics, it's a captivating listen.
It's a reminder of how the idea of what pop music can do is shifting, in a climate where pop bloggers can discuss albums that are niche and delve into catchy, melody driven ideas. Ellis-Bextor may not be chasing the charts but she'll always have an ear for a good hook. And you can't get more pop than that.