Jamie Cullum tipped too heavily toward coffeehouse electronica on his fourth album, Catching Tales, obscuring his charms as both a jazzy pianist and a soft rock crooner, so he wisely scales back to his strengths on The Pursuit. Despite a brassy opening cover of Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things,” The Pursuit is hardly a retreat to Harry Connick, Jr. territory.
Jamie Cullum’s new recording is called The Pursuit, so it’s fair to ask what the pianist and singer is chasing. A reasonable answer: He’s chasing your admiration, your tapped toe, your spreading smile. His first mature recordings, Pointless Nostalgic (2003) and Twentysomething (2004), put Cullum in the Harry Connick, Jr. category, mostly recording jazz vocal standards with a modern swagger and serious improvising piano chops.
BROKEN BELLS “Broken Bells” (Columbia) A two-man supergroup, Broken Bells is the partnership of James Mercer, the songwriter and lead singer from the Shins, and Danger Mouse (Brian Burton), the producer who’s also half of Gnarls Barkley. Both of them are scholars of retro pop, and their collaboration reinforces that tendency all too strongly. “Broken Bells” is couched in all the gamesmanship two smart hipsters can share.