Teddy Thompson - Bella
The tastefully exuberant adult contemporary sheen of Teddy Thompson's 2008 record A Piece of What You Need should've been a career jump starter, the polish an ideal fit for his impeccable country-pop melodies and stunning voice. But its successor, Bella, takes the slickness too far. It's understandable that Thompson and Verve want a commercial album — he should be far more popular than he is — but too many of his new tunes are so song-factory professional they're generic, the lyrics confessional but dull, and the de-evolution between the last album's evocative single "In My Arms" and the pandering machismo of "Looking for a Girl" is bothersome. Only his vocals remain utterly compelling, hanging a world-weary intelligence and ethereal beauty over rote arrangements. Thompson sorely needs a new direction, a less formulaic sound that'll benefit from his gifts. Bella has its moments (the brief, cathartically self-deprecating "The One I Can't Have"), but the production flattens everything. A well-intentioned dud.