Mayer Hawthorne, ‘How Do You Do’ (Universal Republic)
Unlike the Brit birds of the last decade who’ve revived moldy soul, this Michigan-born, Los Angeles–based baby face doesn’t wail as though his heart’s been squashed. Even when confronting romantic ruin, he just shrugs and smiles: “I spilled hot coffee on my shirt / It hurt,” goes a typically terse rhyme. The once-unlikely tale of Hawthorne’s indie debut — Stones Throw rap fanboy morphs into credible crooner — now scans as natural evolution; his increasingly confident cries and grooves and songwriting aplomb are undeniably pro. And if Snoop Dogg’s thin chirps compromise the Delfonics tribute “I Can’t Stop,” the ELO bittersweetness of “Dreaming” brings How Do You Do’s star attraction ?one syncopated step closer to becoming the Woody Allen of blue-eyed soul.