It’s understandable for Brookline native Eli “Paperboy” Reed to depart from his stylish retro soul roots after dipping into the same well over his first three albums. Now he takes a risk with a venture into slickly produced contemporary pop filled with electronic flourishes. It doesn’t quite pay off. While there are some undeniable small thrills (“Shoes,” “Pistol Shot”) some of the charm and quirks that make Reed such an engaging vocalist get lost in the mix. The overly manicured music teeters on carpentry work as Reed and coproducer Ryan Spraker, ironically, drain the soul out. The songs, albeit slight, are good (especially “Grown Up” and “Not Even Once”) but too often they are not allowed to breathe. The best track, “WooHoo,” was previously released and, though tinkered with here, it still captures the energy and attitude of Reed at his best. A singer as vivid as Reed shouldn’t be straining to make an impression (“Shock to the System,” “Lonely World”). Chalk it up to growing pains. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “WooHoo”Ken Capobianco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.