Susanna Hoffs’s affinity for the music of the ‘60s has informed her work with the Bangles, her “Sid n Susie” collaborations with Matthew Sweet, and her sporadic solo career, but she’s never recorded as note-perfect an homage to the lush pop of that era as she has on Someday. Hoffs is a classicist at heart, and, nearly 30 years into her career, she’s never sounded as natural and at ease as she does here. That’s not to say that Someday is as essential a pop album as the Bangles’ All Over the Place or Different Light, or that it’s as refined as Hoffs’s slept-on self-titled album from 1996, but the sincerity and warmth of the project make up for its few lapses in songwriting quality.
Stylistically, Someday makes for a natural extension of the Bangles’ recent Sweetheart of the Sun in that it sounds more like an album that’s been unearthed after 50 years than it does a contemporary recording. That’s as much a credit to engineer David Boucher as it is to Hoffs and producer Mitchell Froom, as there are no traces of modern “loudness war” compression in the recording. Every instrument on Someday—and “Holding My Breath” alone boasts both string and brass sections and a fantastic clavinet run—has plenty of elbow room, and that depth and purity of sound contributes to the album’s decidedly vintage vibe.
Froom’s arrangements walk a fine line between careful, almost-reverent homage, and on-the-nose mimicry. The laidback groove of “This Is the Place” recalls the best of Donovan, while the subtle use of horns as texture on “Picture Me” is a thoughtful, effective nod to Burt Bacharach. Hoffs’s music has always owed a massive debt to the Beatles, and that’s reflected most unmistakably in “Raining” and the gorgeous opener “November Sun.” If the production is somewhat affected overall, that’s by design, but Froom’s approach is light-handed enough not to pull focus from Hoffs’s material or performances.
Hoffs’s straightforward song structures and emphasis on melodies with a real sense of movement highlight her intuitive understanding of classic pop conventions. When a song has as lovely and memorable a melodic hook as “November Sun,” it doesn’t need a flashy middle eight or a dramatic tempo change. “Regret” and “All I Need” are songs that ultimately impress most for their economy. What Hoffs struggles with are some distractingly bad rhymes and awkward turns of phrase: She stumbles headlong over a line break in the chorus of “Always Enough” (a fairly obvious retread of Sweetheart of the Sun‘s “I’ll Never Be Through with You”), while “Picture Me” stops dead when Hoffs sings, “Picture me as a wind-up toy you have all to yourself/Don’t ever put me on the shelf.”
Even when delivering the occasional tossed-off line, though, Hoffs’s trademark raspy voice is in fine form. She’s undeniably lost some of the power in her upper register over the years, but the issues with pitch that marred some of her performances on the last two Bangles albums aren’t a problem here. She’s confident and coy on “Holding My Breath” and vulnerable on “Regret” and “True.” But above all else, the prevailing tone of Hoffs’s work on Someday is one of sincerity, making the album a moving homage to the music she grew up with.