Imogen Heap, "Ellipse"

3.5

As tangible as it is ethereal, Imogen Heap's new album, "Ellipse" (the follow-up to her 2005 Grammy Award-nominated breakthrough "Speak for Yourself"), could be the bit of magic she seeks-it's full of Heap's gauzy falsetto and sprightly sounds that seem to be coming from elsewhere in the room. The prolific singer/songwriter has reacted to the licensing feast surrounding "Speak for Yourself" ("The OC," "So You Think You Can Dance," Verizon advertisements) with a stronger focus on song structure and melody on "Ellipse." The opening track/lead single, "First Train Home," is her best shot yet at radio, with a dewy Dido electro-sheen but with more literate lyrics. "Aha!" turns and pops like a haunted jack-in-the-box, while the song "Half-Life" is all meekness and longing. It all recalls great women of electro-pastiche past (Enya, Sarah McLachlan, Kate Bush) but never to the point of imitation. Nothing about Heap's music is simple, but every aspect of it rings clear and true. --Kerri Mason