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Pop and Soul, with a Ghostly Moan

U.K. singer James Morrison mixes the smoky soul of Terence Trent D'Arby with the catchy crooning of James Blunt.
U.K. singer James Morrison mixes the smoky soul of Terence Trent D'Arby with the catchy crooning of James Blunt.

James Morrison's debut album Undiscovered made him a star in his native U.K. last summer, and the disc's release here portends similarly big things: Mixing the smoky soul of Terence Trent D'Arby with the catchy crooning of James Blunt, the 22-year-old is nothing if not commercially viable. At times, Undiscovered falls back on agreeable but conventional neo-soul, but on "The Pieces Don't Fit Anymore," Morrison seizes on a hauntingly snaky hook that burrows under the skin.

The ghostly moan that runs through "The Pieces Don't Fit Anymore" immediately brings to mind the work of Antony (of Antony & The Johnsons), whose androgynous voice has graced what seem like dozens of albums in the last few years. Running through the track as if it were a looped keyboard hook, Morrison's backing vocal provides a nice counterpoint to his showier lead, on which he passionately mourns a love gone wrong. Musically, he's not reinventing anything here, but he's crafted a smoky winner with enough pop potential to make him more than just the English singing sensation du jour.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)