Saints & Sinners
If All Saints’ debut pitched the group as an edgier alternative to the Spice Girls, the band’s 2000 follow-up, Saints & Sinners, sought to expand their sound, following a period in which their musical skills risked being drowned out by their tabloid infamy. There was plenty for the press to glom on to, from celebrity boyfriends and rumored infighting to three of the band members’ performances in the critically derided film Honest. Thankfully, Saints & Sinners reminded audiences of what had made All Saints so huge in the first place: the music. As with the group’s debut, the album finds Shaznay Lewis handling the majority of the songwriting. But William Orbit, fresh from production duties on back-to-back Madonna hits Ray of Light and Music, also lends a hand, resulting in some of Saints & Sinners’ best songs. That includes “Pure Shores,” a near-perfect portion of dream pop that seamlessly folds the group’s crystal-clear harmonies into Orbit’s trademark liquid ripples and celestial synths; the result is hazily euphoric. “Black Coffee,” meanwhile, is a similarly lush soundscape of glitchy electronics and shimmering melodies that wistfully evokes the domesticity of a contented relationship. And “Surrender” is an ode to sensuality, cloaked in Blatt’s velvety vocals (“Like a flower, you unfold/Leading a dance all on your own/And like a dead man I don’t move”). Things get more playful on Saints & Sinners, thanks to tracks like “Whooping Over You”—a kittenish callback to early hit “Bootie Call”—and “All Hooked Up,” a kiss-off with its tongue firmly in its cheek: “Why’s this fool all up in my ass?/Doesn’t he know I want class, not trash.” Together, the 12 tracks on Saints & Sinners more than justified All Saints’ position as one of the UK’s preeminent girl bands—only for the group to implode four months after its release, following an altercation over a combat jacket. Perhaps putting “saints” in the name was optimistic.