Album Review

Duffy, 'Endlessly'

December 6, 2010

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Duffy’s follow-up to “Rockferry,’’ her 2008 debut, starts out with an instant curveball in “My Boy,’’ a frisky Euro-disco thump that’s closer to ABBA than Burt Bacharach. It initially sounds like a canny move, breaking free from the overly mannered supper-club soul that occasionally hemmed in the Welsh singer on her last album. But “Endlessly’’ both reverts to old tricks quickly and constantly strains to update Duffy’s appeal, and it’s an awkward mix. Her material is frustratingly hit-or-miss either way. “Keeping My Baby’’ and “Lovestruck’’ dig through Kylie Minogue’s scraps, and the shrill club R&B of “Well, Well, Well’’ has nowhere to go. It’s grandly ironic, then, that several of her ’60s-throwback tracks are done in by their wan beats. The melody, arrangement, and vocal delivery make “Don’t Forsake Me’’ a spot-on girl-group sob story, and the Winehouse-y “Breath Away’’ should float, but both are rhythmically inert. Duffy’s voice is still arresting — a pinched, tremulous ache best showcased in “Too Hurt to Dance,’’ where she resembles a Ronette abandoned not only by her boy but by her backups — but there’s no vavoom to it. It’s a great sound still searching for a personality. (Out tomorrow) MARC HIRSH

ESSENTIAL “Too Hurt to Dance’’