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CD Review: Imogen Heap

Ellipse (RCA)

The past couple of years have produced a bumper crop of newly minted singing/songwriting women of every stripe, from pop chanteuses with serious chart aspirations to rock chicks with chops and bravado. Imogen Heap is not one of them. The Brit worked with Acacia in the mid-'90s, released her debut solo album, i Megaphone, in 1998, and a follow-up, Speak for Yourself, seven years later. She's not targeting a particular demographic either. Heap's songs have been used in television, film and commercials, and she's worked with musicians like Jeff Beck, Brian Eno, Josh Groban, Jon Bon Jovi, Sean Lennon and IAMX.

On her third solo album, Ellipse, Heap cooks up a pop stew that's both visceral and ethereal. On the album's lead-off, "First Train Home," she crafts a beat-driven track that recalls the soul of Sarah McLachlan, the spirit of Annie Lennox and the cerebral pulse of Beth Orton. Heap seamlessly blends pop drive, dance beats and electronic atmospherics without overstating her case, which may explain why she has a legion of fans but fairly unremarkable sales figures. Lyrically, Heap runs the gamut from deep ("Canvas") to banal ("Swoon," "Little Bird") to tongue-in-cheek ("Bad Body Double") but always sings with complete conviction, giving the giddy sex ode "Between Sheets" and the mournful "Wait It Out" nearly equal weight. While there may not be a breakout song on Ellipse, Heap has fashioned an impressive set of songs. — Brian Baker

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