Sophie Ellis-Bextor has released the album Familia with a global music focus that’s a little all over the map. Tracks hop genres from pop to folk to world to country and even an oddly place disco number as if the rest wasn’t enough. The result is a British singer-songwriter that seemingly experimented a bit much with Ed Harcourt on production duties, when the artist might have benefited otherwise.
Opening track “Wild Forever” carries in dramatic fashion in its alternative rock mood swings, repetitive yet composed in want of something permanently “wild.” The “Death of Love” that follows is a folksy swarm of indie rocking flair, a relational turmoil where “every sunrise leads to a sunset” with a slightly melodramatic scope. Piano ballad “Crystallise” sounds somewhat sweet between its haunting guitars, bells and violins, though the entire thought is about trying to work up the nerve.
Country tones permeate through “Hush Little Voices” in an interesting address to the inner voices, despite cheesy lyrics on “Mama gonna sing you a lullaby.” Epic violins carry “Here Comes the Rapture” rather convincingly in a “rhapsody” to get set free, getting lost in the divine feeling of love. Then out of nowhere disco number “Come With Us” posits an abstract provocation to “give us all your money” and might have worked outside this collection.
“Cassandra” is an odd piano pop conspiracy attempting to prove freedom from guilt for global fallout, ultimately lacking the depth from poorly matched lyric and song. The indie rocking “circus flight” in “My Puppet Heart” actually sounds quite fun, the complete opposite of a puppet heart. Matthew Caws guests in folksy melancholic “Unrequited” in a track that is surprisingly endearing, matching seriousness in tone with content rather well.
Between quirky synths and piano balladry “The Saddest Happiness” is an odd number, likely another supposed irony, highlighted only by a brief spoken word feature from Miriam Roman Fernandez. Closing track “Don’t Shy Away” has everything Familia ought to have: cool rhythms, endearing moments, a convincing message, interesting instrumentation, nice drum work … where a whole record of this would be perfect, it’s sadly not.
It’s hard to follow the meaning behind Sophie Ellis-Bextor in Familia, which could link back to any number of themes presented across the record. The scope of the record sounds and feels larger than life. Though like an oddly compiled film soundtrack following specific scenes the collection hardly compares to the actual vision, whatever that may be.