Recorded over the space of three years in studios both in Ireland and France, Joe Chester's second album, 'The Tiny Pieces Left Behind', has a disjointed feel to it, which despite occasional flashes of brilliance has a tendency to get lost in too many instruments and not enough substance.

Where as Chester's debut, the much acclaimed 'A Murder of Crows' was a mainly acoustic affair, full of strong songs and catchy melodies, 'The Tiny Pieces Left Behind' sees him opt for a much fuller sound. This should work well, as Chester has earned his stripes for over the last 10 years in guitar-based bands such as Sunbear and Tenspeedracer. However, at times the singer-songwriter’s vocals struggle to compete with the richer sound.

The album opens strongly with both 'Something is Better (Than Nothing At All)' and 'The Right Place' offering decent harmonies and the instruments afforded to them are up to the task of strong, catchy melodies.

The best find on the album has to be 'To Hold onto Melting Love', a wispy, thoughtful tune, double-tracked vocally and offering contributos Ann Scott and Gemma Hayes the proper platform to showcase their considerable talents. The melody soars and dips, eventually ending up with a traditional air. Beautiful.

However, too many times on the album the songs just fade into obscurity, ok for a first or second listen, but offering nothing to listeners to keep the coming back. 'Why Things Break' is a forgettable track, with the repetitive nature of verse and chorus not helped out by Chester's vocals.

There is equally nothing memorable about 'Alarms', a long drawn-out affair, devoid of any melody, Chester's voice again competing unfavourably with the music. Ditto 'Long Distance Friend'.

With only a handful of decent tracks and one stand-out song, the album has to be considered a let-down following the considerable beauty and success of his debut. Unfortunately, it's all too familiar 'difficult second album' territory for the singer-songwriter.

Padraic Geoghegan