Release Date: Apr 29, 2016
Record label: Double Feature
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Dream Pop
After a three decade long career featuring stints as the original singing voice of Jem in the '80s cartoon Jem and the Holograms followed by Belltower; Ultrababyfat; the recently reunited Luna; and Dean & Britta, her ongoing band with husband Dean Wareham, Britta Phillips has finally and remarkably released her debut solo album. Despite the couple's recent relocation to Los Angeles, a slightly cool and at times frosty vibe permeates this record, which comprises five originals and five covers. Two of the covers are of well-known songs such as Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" and The Cars' "Drive." Phillips coyly deadpans the vocals to the latter while wisely keeping the melodic structure and basic arrangement of the original.
Luck or Magic is the half-originals, half-covers solo debut of Britta Phillips, a veteran of indie rock bands such as Ultrababyfat, Luna, and Dean & Britta, the latter two with her husband Dean Wareham. Phillips began working on the album in 2012 with electronic DJ Scott Hardkiss, but set it aside when the '90s rave pioneer died suddenly the following year. She later regrouped to finish the album with producer Eric Broucek (LCD Soundsystem, Eleanor Friedberger), along with producer/drummer Roger Brogan (Alison's Halo, Spectrum) and Wareham, who appears on six of the tracks.
The formula that the bassist Britta Phillips and her guitarist husband (and former Luna bandmate) Dean Wareham hit upon for their three albums together as Dean & Britta – sumptuous pop arrangements and an even mix of astutely chosen covers and original material – acts as a template for her solo debut. Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide is given a Lana Del Rey makeover; the addition of warm synths makes the Cars’ Drive even ghostlier. The original songs don’t disappoint either: Million Dollar Bill benefits from its sense of urgency while the opener, Daydream, is woozily seductive.
Britta Phillips' first solo album, Luck or Magic, is an attempt to leave the drowsy, Belle and Sebastian-y sound of Dean & Britta—the band she formed with husband Dean Wareham when Luna originally broke up—behind. Unfortunately, she couldn't shake the couple's penchant for covers. Luck or Magic totals 10 tracks and half are Phillips' interpretations of other people's work.
Having steadily and stealthily proved herself as far more than just a musical sidekick to Dean Wareham since Luna’s initial dissolution in 2005 – through ongoing collaborative work as one-half of Dean & Britta and across a slew of joint soundtrack commissions – Britta Phillips now finally unveils her first official solo LP. Originally started properly in 2012 and finally completed around June of 2015, Luck Or Magic has certainly been a long-time coming. Yet despite its lengthy gestation the album plays out as a remarkably compact and cohesive collection; which comfortably extends upon Phillips’s latter-day works with Wareham as well as finding a few newer nooks and corners to explore.