Released: June 2
After the longest break between albums of her career, Sophie Ellis-Bextor returns with her much-anticipated seventh record, ‘HANA’.
The follow-up to 2016’s ‘Familia’ reunites the singer-songwriter with collaborator Ed Harcourt, with whom she first worked on her fifth album, ‘Wanderlust’ (2014), and enlisted to help craft this, their third project together.
A record three years in the making, ‘HANA’ was conceived ahead of a family trip to Japan in February 2020, but was put on hold amid the pandemic, during which time Sophie became and Instagram sensation with her ‘Kitchen Disco’ series, which led to a greatest hits album, UK and European tour and a run of arena dates with Steps.
Having revisited the past, she looks to the future on her latest original offering – the title of which translates as ‘flower’ or ‘blossom’ – for an album that encompasses themes of reflections and new beginnings across 12 original songs that drive Sophie’s sound forward.
Setting itself aside from previous projects, opening track A Thousand Orchids is different to anything she’s done before, juxtaposing pulsing synths with acoustic piano as Sophie sings: ‘You’ll find not witches waiting here / No ghosts hidden within the dark / Look for the beacons that show the way’.
The mid-tempo number builds to a stirring crescendo with lyrics that talk of letting go of the past and living in the moment – a subject present across the album, notably in the singles Breaking The Circle and Lost In The Sunshine.
As an album, ‘HANA’ is unique to the rest of Sophie’s catalogue and while there are definite pop moments, she resists chasing hits and lets the music lead the way for a sound that’s both charming and enchanting.
That’s not to say there aren’t echoes of Sophie gone by: Until The Wheels Fall Off is a rollicking anthem for holding on to love ‘through all the crazy times, through all the lows and highs’, layered vocal harmonies mirror soaring synths on the bouncy Beyond The Universe, and the bombastic Reflections is future concert highlight.
Meanwhile, laid-back early cut Tokyo offers a moment of respite that forms a centrepiece for the album, bringing together its themes and placing Sophie’s pure vocals front and centre.
Dive into ‘HANA’ expecting dance classics in the vein of Get Over You, Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer) and Bittersweet at your peril; 25 years after she released her first album with theaudience, Sophie lets go of the past and and steps into a bright future – exactly what we’d expect from one of British pop’s very best!
‘HANA’ is out June 2 on Cooking Vinyl.