Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Album review: Mayer Hawthorne, Where Does This Door Go

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Michigan's Mayer Hawthorne has always been a more distinctive pop artist than simple purveyor of retro-soul.

A Strange Arrangement and How Do You Do established him as a smooth-voiced white boy capable of blending R&B with funk, Curtis Mayfield, hip-hop and Motown, and coming up with something full of enthusiasm and sly winks.

But Where Does This Door Go cements him as a pop conjuror contemporary of Justin Timberlake and Pharrell Williams (who co-produces this time around), rather than an alternative artist.

He's got the effortless falsetto and light, tender croon that Pharrell and JT shrug on so easily, and the ease with which he delivers each of these 13 tracks belies his depth of musicianship.

WDTDG swings more to the 70s than the 60s - the guitar breaks, the keyboard sounds, the way he can slip semi-complex jazz progressions in among the catchy hooks.

But it's also more contemporary than any of those influences, more cynical about love in its lyrics ("If I gotta be your cheap back seat lover ..."), more eccentric and electric in its production. The Innocent is a sort of "Gorillaz in love" instant hit; Allie Jones and Crime have a laconic, big-city, hip-hop swagger; Wine Glass Woman is like a sadder, perceptive rewind of Timberlake's Senorita; and the title track is a lush, reflective ballad.

Stars: 4.5/5
Verdict: Hawthorne clubs up his retro-soul with a touch of cynicism
Click here to buy Where Does This Door Go by Mayer Hawthorne.

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