So, in the interests of journalistic research, I decided to visit Alex Clare’s official site, only to be greeted by a picture of a bearded man, wearing a flat cap, on a stage. "Great", I thought, "he looks like that Daniel Powter guy who sang about having a bad day. This'll be an easy review- generic singer-songwriter, throw in some David Gray references and a cute joke about us having the same surname and Bob’s your uncle." Well, it turns out that I’m an idiot, as The Lateness Of The Hour is not only not the sound of your average man-with-a-guitar, it’s a fine piece of forward-thinking pop music.

First things first: the voice. Clare is blessed with a terrific soulful voice which he wields like a weapon throughout the album. He sings with the confidence of someone who knows how strong his voice is, something he proves not by trying to reach as high an octave as possible, but in the raw, wounded way he sings "It seems that I am just too close to love you" on the brooding Too Close. The second thing that, from the second the fuzzed up guitars kick off on awesome scuzz-reggae opener 'Up All Night', it becomes clear that Clare isn’t content to take the easy route. Musically, The Lateness Of The Hour is driven by beats and basslines which provide an appropriate backdrop to his voice. The fantastic 'Hummingbird', where the beats speed up in line with the chorus, shows this at it’s most effective, while the likes of 'Treading Water', which is a tender heartfelt song, is perfectly pitched, with the music delicately balanced against the power of his voice.

It’s not all plain sailing. The lumpen funk of 'Hands Are Clever' veers a little too close to Jamiroquai territory for comfort, but this is the exception rather than the norm. Instead is a confident, vibrant collection of songs that marks Clare out as a considerable talent.

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