Duffy

Endlessly

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Deftly turning from Dusty Springfield-like ingenue to Kylie Minogue-ish diva in the span of one album, Duffy has produced an album, Endlessly, that is nearly everything its predecessor was not: where Rockferry was by turns melancholy and majestic, Endlessly is direct and forceful. Where the songs on Rockferry portrayed a young neo-soul singer too wounded to even look at the camera, Endlessly comes blasting out, right from the possessive opener, "My Boy," and fires several more aggressive shots across the bow of anyone who thought her too subdued on Rockferry (led by the single "Well Well Well"). Co-producer and co-songwriter Albert Hammond (father to the Strokes' guitarist and a singer/songwriter in his own right) coats the album in strings, similar to the last album's producer (Bernard Butler), but also allows plenty of clubby productions and up-front beats (some provided by the Roots' stickman Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson) to give this album a fine sheen of pop gloss (where Rockferry was akin to the throwback balladry of Scott Walker) Often, the collaboration hits a sweet spot, as on "Too Hurt to Dance," which is laden with Brill Building strings, but sounds up to the minute as well. Duffy's voice, however, has not improved with age, or simply isn't portrayed well here. She sings higher notes and sounds more pinched than before, and occasionally her vibrato sounds purposefully creaky, like a parody of her more infamous British soul rival, Amy Winehouse. (The rare moments where she holds back her vocals, like album highlight "Don't Forsake Me," actually come off truer and more nakedly emotional.) From the beginning of her career, Duffy's voice alone was clearly not her most potent weapon. Here, she oddly attempts to build an album out of it, not succeeding with anything close to the power and elegance of Rockferry.

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