Breath From Another doesn't sound like anything you haven't heard before: Smooth-voiced divas, slick programmed beats, loungey swirls of brass, and kitschy '70s movie samples are not exactly new discoveries in the world of contemporary pop. At times, though, Esthero strikes an irresistible balance between accessible pop songcraft and darker electronic soundscapes. Of course, there's plenty on Breath From Another that sounds just as tedious as the album's formulaic origins might lead you to expect: The orchestral maneuvers on "Lounge" aren't enough to overcome its fairly pedestrian, loping beats, while "Flipher Overture" finds Esthero resorting to the sort of de rigeur spy-movie junk that grew tiresome ages ago. Elsewhere, though, things improve considerably. The title track is a gem: While the beats are hardly revolutionary, the sultry voice of Esthero vocalist Jen Bea-Englishman contrasts beautifully with the sound of the hard-hitting rhymes of guest MCs Shug and Meesah, augmented by a gentle acoustic guitar. When the duo strays a little from formula, as it does on the flamenco-flavored "Heaven Sent" and the soulful, Badu-esque "Country Livin'," its efforts are a strong reminder of what made artists like Massive Attack and Portishead stand out from the crowd in the first place. Even when Esthero's imagination fails it, few moments are so weak that Englishman's honeyed vocals can't resurrect them. Her sublime voice routinely lifts the album's melodies out of the muck, and leads the duo boldly through areas where many of their contemporaries have only tiptoed.

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