Teddy Thompson | Heartbreaker Please | (Thirty Tigers)
4 out of 5 stars
“Where are the songs that I love?/Where is the music that I care for?/Is it only in my head”/Or on my record player?” asks Teddy Thompson on his first solo release in nearly a decade. That frustration has resulted in these short but sweet 10 tracks that try, mostly successfully, to recreate the vibe of those tunes he no longer hears other than on his own stereo.
Thompson released his love of countrypolitan in 2016’s album shared with singer Kelly Jones. He returns to composing tightly crafted three minute gems like the ones once on the radio, as the lyrics to “Record Player” above allude to. He even goes so far as to say the music he is now exposed to when he goes dancing is “like fingernails on a blackboard.”
There’s none of that here.
On his sixth solo outing, Thompson—son of Richard—creates near perfect slices of soulful, emotional pop, only one of which breaks the four minute threshold. In that sense, he picks up where he left off on 2011’s Bella. As this disc’s name implies, he’s since gotten his heart broken… again, a topic that has provided fodder for some of the finest music recorded. The same applied to 2011’s Bella, another set dedicated to an ex-girlfriend. Just to hammer the point, he released the title track of this one on Valentine’s Day 2020.
Even though Thompson dismisses vocal comparisons to Roy Orbison (“I couldn’t even shine his shoes” he once said), there is a clear line drawn to the rock and roll hall of famer’s drama laden approach. And if not Roy, than perhaps Chris Isaak or Raul Malo would be apt links, especially on the bittersweet waltz time “Take Me Away” with its dream-like backing strings and melodramatic atmosphere. Thompson gets off to a peppy Motown inspired start with the opening “Why Wait” (the words “for you to break my heart” follow) featuring crispy horns, thumping drums and a hook that screams hit single.
He reminds his onetime lover that “You’re gonna miss me,” on the retro “At a Light” that has the upbeat vibe and feel of an overlooked early 60s nugget. About half the selections are ballads, yet only one, the melancholy and stripped down “No Idea,” breaks the four minute barrier. Thompson clearly has a knack for writing sweeping yet compact melodies, not far from those of Crowded House, especially on the lovely, instantly hummable mid-tempo “What Now.”
For those who, like Thomson, also yearn for the charmingly constructed sounds of classic singles which remain timeless slices of memorable music, and others wanting a taste of those songs in a contemporary setting, Heartbreaker Please finds Teddy Thompson nailing that elusive style with deceptive, impressive ease.