Duffy may owe her career to Amy Winehouse, whose platinum-selling Back to Black helped make neo-soul the genre du jour long before Duffy’s own breakthrough. Winehouse spun out of control during the years that followed, though, while Duffy remained on top, selling over 8 million copies of her debut and slowly molding herself into the queen of modern-day British soul. On Endlessly, she proves how far she’s come, replacing the bashful ballads of 2008’s Rockferry with a brash sound that takes its cues from disco, Europop, and vintage R&B.
Co-producer Albert Hammond coats everything in strings and ‘60s schmaltz, making sure that Endlessly still maintains some sort of stylistic link to the album that came before it, but those flourishes don’t overshadow the club beats that underscore many of these songs. “My Boy,” which opens the record, owes as much to Kylie Minogue as Dusty Springfield, and ?uestlove makes a guest appearance on “Well, Well, Well,” breathing life into the song by giving it a funky, percussive pulse.
The arrangements are gorgeous, especially the Brill Building soundalike “Too Hurt to Dance,” and they wind up being the best part about Endlessly, whose vocal performances don’t always pack a punch. Duffy has a uniquely girlish voice, like Joey Lauren Adams doing an impression of a Bond Girl, and her quirks get the best of her during the album’s slower moments, where her vibrato sounds forced and faded. When the tempo picks up, though, Endlessly sounds like a proper sophomore effort: mature, confident, and wider in scope than its predecessor.