Luck Or Magic

Britta Phillips

Double Feature Records, 2016

REVIEW BY: Ludwik Wodka


A veteran of the music business, Britta Phillips began her career as the voice behind the fictitious band Jem And The Holograms from 1985-1988, and later starred as the singer in the (all-girl) band featured in the 1992 movie Satisfaction. She then went on to join the band The Belltower, and in 2000, replaced Justin Harwood as bassist for the band Luna. Most recently, she has been collaborating with Dean Wareham as half of the duo Dean & Britta. As recently as 2015, they released music for the soundtrack of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Mistress America.

Luck Or Magic marks Britta Phillips’ first full-length solo album. It is an even split between five original compositions and five covers. With a sound that reflects the dream pop of Luna, some of the shoegaze of The Belltower, as well as some electronica, the songs show Phillips emerging as a songwriter in her own right, albeit strongly influenced by her past work.

The album opens with an original composition, “Daydream,” with its slow lilting verses giving way to the ascending lines in the chorus. Following this is another original, “Do It Last,” which draws upon the synthesizers and reverb of dream pop but has a more upbeat pop sound. The covers selected for the album are interesting in that they do not seem like obvious choices to treat in this idiom. Some of these versions, like Dennis Wilson’s “Fallin’ In Love” and Agnetha Fältskog’s “Wrap Your Arms Around Me” are highlights on the album, while on the other hand, the Cars’ “Drive” falls flat by comparison, as does the covered-to-death “Landslide.” The album closes with “Ingrid Superstar,” a nod to the Warhol-affiliated days of the Velvet Underground, with its trance-like drone reminiscent of songs such as “Venus In Furs” and “Heroin.”

Simply put, the best material on Luck Or Magic is Phillips’ original work. The melodies are beautiful and interesting, the arrangement tasteful, and the production polished. As good as some of the covers are, they only succeed when they cleave closest to Phillips’ original material; “Wrap Your Arms Around Me” is the best example of this. Overall, this album succeeds in showcasing Britta Phillips’ songwriting and singing, as well as affirming her transition into the spotlight as frontwoman of her own band.

Rating: B+

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