In a year when everything 1960s was hip again -- at least when it came to female-fronted semi-indie pop music -- from Amy Winehouse's stylized, Motown-appropriating crossover R&B to Lucky Soul and the Pipettes' peppy girl group revivalism to Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings' pedigreed retro soul, Liverpudlian singer Candie Payne emerged with a debut album that drew from an under-plundered side of that golden decade's pop landscape: the arch sophistication of British soulsters Dusty Springfield and Petula Clark and the cinematic decadence of Nancy Sinatra and Shirley Bassey. The latter influence is particularly evident in the brassy, torchy title track of I Wish I Could Have Loved You More, which also recalls the enigmatic seediness of Portishead (themselves noted devotees of vintage spy movie music), but with a more rhythmically muscular '60s pop
ock groove. It's lyrically and melodically minimalist, seemingly slight, but a few listens in it becomes insidiously infectious, with a perfect concoction of slinky guitar leads, sinister organ, menacing horn blasts, and funky Latin-ish piano and percussion breaks, all held together by Payne's understated but smoldering vocals. The noir-ish vibe continues throughout the album, whether gloomily as on the solemn "A Different You" and somber, circular lament "Why Should I Settle for You?," or on groovier but ultimately no less despondent fare like "All I Need to Hear" and "By Tomorrow," with its peculiar, sampled-sounding horn breaks. Curiously, just as the scrupulously clean production approach nevertheless yields a beguilingly murky atmosphere, the profusion of '60s signifiers -- never obtrusive but always apparent -- winds up sounding unexpectedly modern, a potent cocktail of classic sounds with contemporary indie rock and electronica flourishes: the strangely familiar and the familiar made strange. For the most part, the songs themselves, while pleasant enough, don't quite hold up to the intriguing potential of their constituents, making this something of a victory of style over substance; an album that still sounds great with repeated listens, but doesn't necessarily grow much deeper. Which isn't at all a bad thing in itself, especially since it suggests plenty of potential for what Payne could accomplish in the future, given her conceptual creativity and supple, resonant voice. There is, however, one notable exception to both the album's pervasive downcast mood and its somewhat lackluster songwriting: the sterling pop single "One More Chance," which evokes the classic Spectorian girl groups much more than anything else here, even if it doesn't sparkle quite as brightly on the album as it does in Mark Ronson's crisper, slightly extended single remix.