Singer-songwriter Britta Phillips mines familiar territory on her solo debut, Luck or Magic. The sexy, somnolent layers of keyboards and guitars seem lifted directly from some late ‘80s recording session that places her vocals at exactly the place where they either drift into the ether or capture our attention. What’s lacking is the muscle that she has displayed in the past on recordings with Luna and Dean & Britta. There’s no breakthrough here that would make the difference between a simply sweet and sentimental cover and one that Phillips makes her own.

The album’s cover versions, which make up half its track list, may be its most memorable recordings, but not necessarily its best. In particular, Stevie Nicks’ “Landslide” doesn’t do Phillips any favors. This seemingly ubiquitous chestnut is performed at nearly every open mic or coffee house gig featuring a would-be witchy woman or even an adventurous warlock, and Phillips’s version comes off as slapdash, not a showcase for her emotional depth and character. There’s little connection between the singer and the song, and you can imagine this version licensed to an off-brand clothing store that pops up on a busy street in your town before disappearing weeks later.

Phillips’ rendition of The Cars’ “Drive” fares a little better, perhaps because her aesthetic isn’t that far removed from the original. She seems to understand the ache and ambiguity of Ric Ocasek’s lyrics. “Wrap Your Arms Around Me,” originally recorded by Swedish singer Agnetha Fältskog, is the album’s most inspired performance, and comes from the kind of European sensibilities that have become an integral part of Phillips’ music. Evie Sands’ “One Fine Summer Morning,” first recorded in 1969, has the kind of breezy arrangement and vocal performance that speaks to Phillips’ strengths.

Yet droning synths and deep layers of electronics ultimately rob the record of its power. The opening original “Daydream” seems worthy of a James Bond theme before it resolves into a soupy, stylistic quagmire that falls too deeply in love with its own reflection. That bright sheen keeps the recording from reaching emotional truths and transcending its settings. On the other hand, another original, “Do It Last,” puts the singer’s voice front and center, such a rarity on the album that you can’t help but be blown away by it.

If there were more moments like “Do it Last” and the closing original “Ingrid Superstar,” which was first recorded for Dean & Britta’s 13 Most Beautiful…Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests, the album would more likely be a victory. It’s easy to love Britta Phillips, so it’s hard not to like her Luck or Magic. Unfortunately, the album feels like an assignment to prove that Phillips could do it, and not an artistic statement that Phillips was compelled to make.

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