Like his fellow Northerner and sometime touring mate, Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon, Duke Special offers a melodic, piano-driven alternative in the acoustic guitar-dominated singer-songwriter scene.

His second album opens nicely with an emphatic burst of instrumentation on 'Wake Up Scarlett', though mawkish lines like 'I feel like a falling dawn' take some of the shine from the melody.

'Everybody Wants A Little Something' is more child-like, with plink-plonk piano notes leading into a brass solo with hand-clap rhythm, that sound in combination like a theme tune to a cartoon. It also takes a swipe at pop talent shows, opining that 'everybody knows that the good things take a little longer'.

The album's highlight is probably the forthcoming single, 'Freewheel'. Like the opening track, a multi-instrumental crash brings the song into being. It then uses a freewheeling range of orchestration to develop an ethereal backdrop to Wilson's pleasing vocals as they scale the heights of his vocal range.

Previous single 'Last Night I Nearly Died' makes good use of a nice clarinet line that threads through what is an upbeat, poppy number.

Elsewhere, though the piano-led proceedings veer from quiet notes with strings to vaudeville to rollicking and percussive, it feels like the balladry is dwelling on the same ground, and creates a certain ho-hum factor.

Two late highlights save the listener from being mired in the deep forest, however. 'Slip Of A Girl' succeeds in the opposite way to some of the album's best tunes, that is by keeping things simple. A dulcet piano melody married with strings makes what is probably the warmest tune here.

And the Duke saves his breath for the closer, 'This Could Be My Last Day', on which he really sings out and creates an emotional finish to the record.

Perhaps this is the key difference between Duke Special and other singer-songwriters – whereas the unique selling point of the current king of the genre, Damien Rice, is the depth of emotion in his music, it is the Duke's instrumentation and melodic variety that are his strongest suits and define his space on the musical landscape.

Bill Lehane