Bobby Wratten's teary tales paint smudged impressions of worlds glimpsed through wet windows, smears of boys and girls coming and going, coming together and drifting apart, coming to their senses, or losing their senses. His sensitive sensibility portrays little lost souls slipping in and out of focus, in and out of frame, and in and out of love. Wratten isn't one of them, these boys and girls of the to and fro; he's the wizened veteran of all matters o' th' heart, the paramour filled with lamentations on the loves he lost, the artist at a knowing distance. But for this, his craft, he wasn't always treasured. He's long been scorned for being far too twee and embarrassingly earnest out front of the Field Mice; it's taken a new generation of sweetiepie kids, the kind who've grown up on Softies and Pastels, to take Wratten's songwriting craft seriously. Such said, he's never sounded as musically sound as he does on the fourth Trembling Blue Stars album, Alive to Every Smile. After his debut, on Lips That Taste of Tears, with an awkward juggling between thumping Sarah-Cracknell-solo-album techno and the frailest of brokenhearted balladry, it's taken a couple more records to calm down such dilettantish desires, as the disparity of dualistic dalliances slowly bleeds into a more grounded middle. Alive to Every Smile, again produced with Saint Etienne associate Ian Catt, finds TBS swanning through a set of soft-pop numbers giddy with the misty misery of melancholy and coated with the softest frostings of studio icing-sugar. Heavy but not too heavy on the keyboards, filled with softly jangling guitars, softly hissing cymbals and plenty of plaintive (and soft) vocals, the set is sweet without getting satiating. Of Wratten's winsome whisperings, none sound nicer than on "Maybe After All," with its wise words "don't live in the rumor" making for some kind of chorus.