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Sarah Cracknell

Instinct

Twenty-five years after Petula Clark sang the glories of the CBD and warned of the dangers of nodding off in the tube station, Saint Etienne made its own appeal to the naive urbanity of the first-time apartment dweller. The synthetic beats of Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, more suitable to housecleaning dancing than the public kind, joined with the vaporous croonings of Sarah Cracknell in music that was often called “sophisticated,” but only because it never tried too hard to be too much of anything. Etienne remains the patron saint of tidying up, but Cracknell, confident gamin that she pictures herself to be, has stepped out on her own a couple of times. Clutching her purse with both hands and staring up at all the big buildings, she’s off to get her hair done again. With Kelly’s Locker, a U.S.-only EP that picks the bones of an earlier solo release, the 1997 U.K. version of Lipslide, you still get a few dishpan workouts, but mainly you get Swinging London with, at best, modest swing. The standout is the new and mostly rhythm-trackless “Judy, Don’t You Worry,” which sounds like a bed-sit side project involving Belle and Sebastian, the Beautiful South, and light sedation. On “Sea Shells,” also new, Cracknell holds her ear to a conch and asks if her guy is true. And on the “Armchair Mix” of “Home” she longs for him, but in an attenuated, if quiet ‘n’ desperate, way—he’s just a boy; there’ll always be boys. The ideal way to hear this record, I imagine, is to glide obliviously through the city with it burbling in your headphones—caught like a Harper’s Bazaar model in a Sokolsky bubble, circa 1963. It turns out you can live that way for years.—Glenn Dixon