*** 1/2 Saint Etienne, “Sound of Water,” Sub Pop.
Until now, Saint Etienne symbolized the guilty pleasure of shimmering, Burt Bacharach-esque pop. The British trio was all about lightness and carried it off with the pride of consummate lounge aesthetes. In their many B-sides, however, they experimented with electronica and a variety of unsettling moods. This ambitious, elaborate fifth album finally merges both tendencies, creating soundscapes of an austere, lasting beauty. Sarah Cracknell’s limpid voice sounds more meditative than ever, while the sound combines baroque harpsichord lines with subtle dissonance. It’s enough to restore your faith in pop as a serious pursuit.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.