Dean & Britta at the Black Cat, Washington, DC, Thursday 29 March 2007
Dean Wareham's new project, Dean & Britta, carries on the minimalist, dreamy indie-pop sound that he cultivated with earlier New York bands Galaxie 500 and Luna. The one significant -- and invigorating -- change to the formula is a more overt collaboration with former Luna bassist (and Wareham's wife) Britta Phillips.
On Thursday night, at a modestly attended Black Cat show, Phillips's new role was stunning: Her ethereal voice floated over the music with an airy sweetness reminiscent of Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval, effortlessly enhancing the songs' laid-back feel.
Phillips glided over the leisurely "The Sun Is Still Sunny," while her wistful voice and shimmering vibraphone on "White Horses," the theme to a 1960s British children's TV show, captured the psychedelic pop of the era. When Wareham sang lead, Phillips's soft harmonies even smoothed out some of his dry, deadpan qualities; during a cover of the Troggs' "Our Love Will Still Be There," her ghostlike echoes softened the distance in his voice.
Toward the end of the night, the group -- touring with a backing band -- revisited several Luna songs ("Tiger Lily," "Bewitched"), which felt anticlimactic given Phillips's reduced vocal role. But soon she returned to the microphone to join Wareham for a sultry take on the Serge Gainsbourg/Brigitte Bardot duet "Bonnie and Clyde."
-- Catherine P. Lewis
.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 2 April 2007; Page C07