Canadian songstress Serena Ryder should be terrible. All signs point toward tedious mediocrity — thanks to comparisons with Adele and descriptions that include “soulful pop-rock” on her press release. Plus she’s opening for Michael Franti (the Spearhead dude) on his fall tour. However, Ryder’s Harmony is surprisingly enjoyable. Yes, it’s polished to within an inch of its life — Ryder has a voice that can stand up for itself and doesn’t need any studio trickery, but that hasn’t stopped the overzealous production team. At her best, Ryder is like the mutt-child of Pat Benatar and Sheryl Crow, taking the best elements but breeding out the defects. The lead-off single, “What I Wouldn’t Do,” is an unusually intelligent slice of pure pop, devoid of bubblegum but still sweet enough to stick. Of course, there’s a radio-friendly ballad on here, “Please, Baby, Please,” though that isn’t detestable either. Somehow, Ryder has made a contemporary pop album that doesn’t suck.
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