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coverpic flag US - New York - Full Moon 243 - 06/20/16

Britta Phillips
Luck Or Magic
Double Feature Records

'Whether you know me as the bassist in Luna, half of Dean & Britta or the singing voice of Jem, I'm very excited to announce that I've finished my first ever solo album, Luck or Magic' (Britta Phillips).

Yes, Britta Phillips entered Luna when bass player Justin Harwood (ex-The Chills) departed in 2000, to add a necessary/important female touch to Luna's dreamy world. Dean Wareham's ex-wife might disagree, but hey, that's water under the bridge long since now, right? When Luna disbanded in 2005, Dean and Britta continued their musical collaboration as, well... Dean & Britta; and the D&B duo has launched three albums: L'Avventura (2003), Back Numbers (2007), and 13 Most Beautiful: Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests (2010). The couple have also scored or contributed music to a number of movie soundtracks including a couple of Noah Baumbach films. Yes, both Britta and Dean had cameos in Baumbach's Frances Ha (2012). Years back, in 1988, Britta co-starred in the 'rock band comedy-drama' Satisfaction (a.k.a. Girls of Summer, directed by Joan Freeman) alongside Julia Roberts, Liam Neeson and Justine Bateman. According to Wikikpedia (I haven't seen the movie myself), 'Phillips performed several songs during the movie and is featured on the soundtrack album (as part of Justine Bateman & The Mystery, credited as Jennie Lee & The Mystery). Britta also did the voice of 'Jem' in the animated TV series Jem (1985-1988). However, her acting career never over-shadowed her musical career.

Dean Wareham released a self-titled solo album (his first) in 2014, and last year saw a Luna reformation (briefly, for a tour). Therefore, it is just right that 2016 is the year for Britta to make her solo album debut. Luck Or Magic holds ten songs, of which five are originals and the other five are covers. Luck Or Magic has been in the making since 2012, when producer/DJ/electronic music pioneer Scott Hardkiss (a.k.a. Scott Friedel) approached Britta with the idea. Britta contributed to Hardkiss' solo debut Technicolor Dreamer (2009), and Hardkiss did several remixes for Dean & Britta's third album, 13 Most Beautiful: Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests. Phillips and Hardkiss started working together between other projects, but the project halted when Hardkiss suddenly passed away (aged 43) in March 2013. Eventually, Britta finished the project with producer/mixer Eric Broucek, who has been working with Britta (and Dean) earlier on, during the soundtrack to Baumbach's While We're Young (2014). Anyway, Luck Or Magic is said to present Britta's 'experiences in both love and music', each song 'exploring love and desire through different personas' with 'luck' as another keyword.

Dean & Britta did several covers for their first two albums (which were both produced by David Bowie's long-time collaborator and friend Tony Visconti), which featured songs by The Doors, Lee Hazlewood, Donovan, The Troggs, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Madonna, to more obscure artists as The Silver Jews, Angel Corpus Christi (a.k.a. Andrea Ross), and Opal (which was Rain Parade's David Roback's 80s neo-psychedelic band which later turned into Mazzy Star). Hey, that is for sure some real shoegaze-dream-pop for you (as Luna's, or Dean & Britta's music has often been tagged/filed under 'shoegaze dream-pop'). On Luck Or Magic Britta covers 60s American singer/songwriter Evie Sands, Fleetwood Mac, The Cars, Dennis Wilson (of The Beach Boys), and.... [drum roll]... ABBA's Agnetha Fältskog! Evie Sands' "One Fine Summer Morning" (a 1969 song from Sands' album Any Way That You Want Me, 1970) is the album's lead single, setting the album's romantic tone. Love is in the air, for sure. The album kicks off with Britta's "Daydream", which is a dreamy and dazed pop song. The soft and careful electronica pop continues with "Do It Last", landing almost in the somewhat cheesy musical landscape. "Million Dollar Doll" is written by Britta and Dean, and this song also appeared on the soundtrack for Frances Ha (performed by Dean & Britta) four years ago. The title track is a soul filled pop song, but I'm not sure how it succeeds being soulful. Then I am much happier with the closing "Ingrid Superstar". This is another song related to Andy Warhol (hence Dean & Britta's third album, the Velvet Underground tinted 13 Most Beautiful: Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests) as 'Ingrid Superstar' (a.k.a. Ingrid Von Scheven) was one of the many protégés around Warhol's Factory.

So, what about the covers, then? I have mentioned the fine "One Fine Summer Morning", which fits perfectly around now as summer has landed. Ric Ocasek and The Cars' "Drive" has always been, will always be the 'stadium sized, broken-love ballad' making it the 'teenager-make-out-on-the-dancefloor-anthem' which I have always had problems listening to. And, well, I don't feel that Britta's slowed version helps the song in my ears/head. Wilson's "Fallin' In Love" is fair enough. Britta's take on Stevie Nicks'/Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" is, well, decent but hardly not what we need in 2016. The real cool cover here is Agnetha's "Wrap Your Arms Around Me" (written by Mike Chapman and Holly Knight, as the title track for Agnetha's first English-language album). The somewhat slick 1983 song fits very well in Britta's hands, with Britta's voice, and comes up as a cool gem. All in all, Luck Or Magic makes a decent solo debut, saved by a couple of originals as well as a couple of covers. Plus "Wrap Your Arms Around Me"!

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