Music ••1/2 Sound ••
Duffy collaborating with Albert Hammond: Sounds promising, right? Except that this isn’t Albert Hammond, Jr., from the Strokes. It’s his father, the veteran tunesmith best known for his 1972 complaint about weather conditions in Southern California. The result is an album that’s both self-consciously modern and a little dated: The songs are mostly old-fashioned pop, but they’re dressed up with enough whiz-bang production for an Ashlee Simpson album, including drum machines, Pro-Tooled backup vocals, and walls of orchestration both real and synthesized. Duffy’s lead vocals are mostly left unaltered, but they’re so far up in the mix that every quiver and sigh is exaggerated — amusingly so on the big ballad “Too Hurt to Dance.”
“My Boy” is unashamedly teen-pop, right down to its high-schoolish words, while “Keeping My Baby” would be a daring lyric if Madonna hadn’t already done it as “Papa Don’t Preach.” By now, it should be clear that Endlessly is a far cry from the understated elegance of Duffy’s memorable 2008 debut, Rockferry — whose main driver, Suede’s Bernard Butler, is notably absent here. Rockferry, too, was proudly retro, but it specifically evoked late-1960s London, and Duffy didn’t go out of her way to sound brassy. Endlessly has enough hooks and ear candy to make it more immediate, and Duffy can still work wonders with a ballad, but this album likely won’t have its predecessor’s staying power.