The Pipettes, ‘Earth vs. the Pipettes’ (Polka Dot/Fortuna Pop!)
Down to one original member (Gwenno Saunders) and pared to a duo, the U.K.’s cheekiest girl group transforms via Human League producer Martin Rushent from the indie-rock Ronettes into a mainstream-wooing update of Bananarama. The transition isn’t smooth: Most everything here is played too fast and mixed too loud, the live instrumentation doesn’t swing, and the vocals often suggest karaoke Kylie Minogue. But the songwriting remains period-perfect and consistently well crafted. Beneath the thin voices and stylistic lapses, would-be anthems like “Stop the Music” come across as pop caterpillars struggling desperately to become disco butterflies.