Usurped by unlikely heartthrob Ed Sheeran during his three-year absence, Newton Faulkner now faces a tall order if he's to reclaim his crown of pop's best inoffensive, ginger-haired troubadour. Recorded in such random locations and with such random collaborators as a Los Angeles garage with Phantom Planet bassist Sam Farrar and a boat in the Thames with forgotten Fame Academy winner David Sneddon, his third studio album, Write It On Your Skin, suggests the dreadlocked singer/songwriter is aware he may need to mix things up a bit. Written by his former drum'n'bass MC brother Toby Faulkner, "Brick by Brick" echoes the vague urban leanings of his younger upstart's with its glitchy guitar loops, fast-paced delivery, and soul-funk beats, while somber break-up ballad "In the Morning" manages to shoehorn a musical saw in among its gentle strings and melancholic acoustic strums. But elsewhere, it's pretty much business as usual as Faulkner utilizes his trademark percussive guitar skills to pleasant MOR effect, whether it's on the skyscraping folk-pop of "Pulling Teeth" and "Soon," the campfire singalongs of "Against the Grain" and the title track, or the life-affirming Elbow-lite balladry of "Clouds" and "Pick Up Your Broken Heart," the latter of which screams "talent show winner"'s debut single. Like the equally bland Sheeran, Faulkner is too much of an easy target to really get worked up about, and although Write It On Your Skin does little to dispel the notion that he's just a busker who got lucky, it's perfectly adequate for what it is.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien