Luck or Magic
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The most unusual aspect of Britta Phillips’ first solo album is how familiar it sounds.
Best known for her work with husband Dean Wareham in Luna, and afterwards Dean & Britta, the twosome are known for dreamy pop that has also appeared as soundtrack recordings for art movies. But the couple’s last non-score album of original material was back in 2007, so the appearance of this disc, started a few years ago and recently revived, is long overdue. With only 10 tracks though, half of which are covers, and an approach that hardly differs from that of Dean & Britta’s (Wareham also contributes instrumentally), this doesn’t break new ground.
Regardless, if you enjoy D&B’s Luna-ish sweet, wistful, slightly psychedelic detached if not necessarily chilly indie pop, this indeed fits the bill. Opener “Daydream” perfectly encapsulates a lush vibe both in its evocative title and music that floats and gently glides above an overdubbed sweeping, swelling wave of mellow orchestrated synths and guitars.
Britta’s unique icy yet sensual, cushy, and often reverbed vocals are in full force, tamping down the low key funk rock of her own “Do It Last,” and bringing a sweet/sour female perspective to a cover of the Cars’ “Drive,” one of that band’s finest songs and one of this disc’s highlights. She also digs deep to unearth Dennis Wilson’s obscure “Fallin’ In Love,” the B-side of the Beach Boys’ drummer’s first solo single from 1970. While the world could have done without another version of Stevie Nicks’ “Landslide”–even if this one strips down the instrumentation to bubbling keyboards, bass, and wandering Wareham guitar– a take on Evie Sands’ obscure folksy “One Fine Summer Morning” is an inspired choice especially with the trilling flute that winds through the sumptuous arrangement. Reprising “Million Dollar Doll,” first recorded for the soundtrack of the idie flick Francis Ha focuses attention on a nearly forgotten soulful rocking gem from the D&B catalog. Another little heard cover from ABBA’s Agnetha Faltskog’s solo album called “Wrap Your Arms Around Me” is a terrific vehicle for Britta’s alternately sweeping and retiring vocal charms.
While Luck or Magic isn’t a major transformation for Britta Phillips, it’s never less than an enjoyable listen. It also reaffirms her substantial if low key vocals and displays a vision as essential to the Dean & Britta albums as her higher profile husband.