It would be easy to write off Everything But The Girl’s brand of classy lounge-pop as little more than fine background music for the fondue set. Worldwide, like 1990’s The Language of Life, offers lanky, synth-heavy arrangments tailor-made to drift around snatches of party conversation. Still, this British duo has powerful, if subtle, ways of grabbing attention — for one, Tracey Thorn’s burnished bronze voice; for another, Thorn and partner Ben Watt’s lyrics, which tend to deal not with big issues but with the corners of our lives. In ”Understanding,” Thorn gets at the deceptively simple machinery that makes a relationship work when she sings, ”You’re here, but what if you weren’t?/…One thing, I guess, this place would be a mess/for my standards at best are undemanding/And that needs your understanding.” Thorn and Watt occasionally overdose on arty conceits (the tenuous connections of ”Boxing & Pop Music,” for example), but they redeem themselves when they drop affectation. Worldwide sometimes sounds like mere wallpaper music, but at least its vibrant colors keep you tuned in. B

  • Music