Telephone’s 12 entries on Automatic are a sturdy, if uninventive, collection of synth-rock. The selections mostly want to soar but Eric Hedford’s stolid vocals confine them to mid-flight status. The leadman and ex-Dandy Warhols member makes a sport of stymieing momentum and deepsixing choruses. On the opener “Shout About It”—seemingly excitable terrain—Hedford delivers the refrain flatly, almost with ironic detachment. He’s staid when a surge is called for. Even the thick guitar swirl of “The Visitor Pt. 1 and 2” doesn’t stir him up. Automatic‘s rock-driven sonics vary from angular to hooky to strum-happy. The movement between each is fluid and showcases steadfastly competent musicianship. But when Telephone reaches for a bolder effect, Hedford’s buzz-killing vox is usually their undoing.
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