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Andy Stochansky suffers from comparison. His voice doesn’t have the soul-rending power of Jeff Buckley’s. His songs don’t quite have the depth of Aimee Mann’s or the precision of Neil Finn’s. His arrangements aren’t as glorious as October-era U2’s or as sophisticated as the Let It Be-era Beatles’. Still, at his worst, Stochansky doesn’t sound that much like Supertramp’s Roger Hodgson. The Toronto-born singer-songwriter/ex-Ani DiFranco drummer specializes in pretty pop songs about being sad. “Stutter,” which opens his third full-length, Five Star Motel, is a peerless example of the genre: Buoyed by sun-dazzled guitars, synths, and drums, Stochansky complains about a woman oblivious to his charms. “She doesn’t care,” he wails, “Breathe the same air/I don’t have a hope in hell.” Unlike its despairing protagonist, “Stutter” is a winner, sure to be a chart fixture on AAA radio—you know, the format for folks who remember musicians too old for Winona to have dated. Likewise, “22 Steps,” in which Stochanskychannels a Thom Yorke-ish creep/weirdo by dreaming of having the nerve to knock on his beloved’s door, is as catchy and edgy as Difford and Tilbrook’s “Tempted.” Elsewhere, however, Stochansky has variable success. “Paris,” a paean to a Francophile shopgirl, will please fans of Amelie, but the song doesn’t make us care about its central character the way the film did. The mildly bombastic “Wonderful (It’s Superman)” has “single” written all over it, but in this case, it’s not a good thing. And the best that can be said for the treacly lite anthem “One Day” (“One day the world stood still/And we all sang the same song/And words came/Without any thought/And we all sang so stroooooong-leeee”) is that fellow Canadian Celine Dion hasn’t gotten hold of it yet. Throughout, producer Ian LeFeuvre (aided on “Stutter” by the sharp-as-tacks Tom Rothrock) keeps things crisp and clean, with every light burning bright. No matter how much it shines, though, this Five Star Motel can’t help but feel a little vacant. —Pamela Murray Winters