2002 – Artful – 45 minutes

It's less than a year since the release of Stephen Hero's sublime 6-track ep 'Lullaby'. He returns with another nocturnally titled album, but this time Patrick Fitzgerald's song-writing alias is in far more upbeat form. If 'Lullaby' was insomniac angst, this collection - embracing love and life - is its extrovert cousin.

Electronic atmospherics and understated acoustics are ditched in favour of a full band using live instruments. It works very well, exposing Fitzgerald's song-writing ability in a way that the claustrophobic sparseness of 'Lullaby' could not. One similarity is the inclusion of short snapshots tracks like 'Laughing Gas' and the eerie loop of '(The March Home)'. Both contain beautiful piano and keyboard riffs but are over far too quickly. Bizarrely - and it's a compliment - many of the tracks bring to mind REM when they were still good (ie making albums like 'Life's Rich Pageant' and 'Document'.)

Although born in the UK, Fitzgerald lives and works in Ireland. The Irish music scene may be awash with male solo artists, but 'Darkness & The Day' has an experienced polish that many a young guitar-wielding arriviste should aspire to. David McAlmont - of 'Yes (I Do Feel Better)' fame – guests on the wonderfully jangly 'My Beautiful One' and Joan of Arse's Bearded Lady even pops up on 'E Flat'. Stephen Hero has come out of the acoustic closet and this fuller sound becomes him. Let's hope he stays out.

Sinéad Gleeson

Tracklisting: Foolish Things – Fall (Let Water Get Close) – My Beautiful One – Hexmass Waltz – NYC – The Dark Dirt – Laughing Gas – Making Sense – She Got Fever – The Sun Shall Walk Us Home – (The March Home) – Thanks, Not Afraid – E Flat