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Jocie Adams has wrought a sexy, nostalgic album of complex, dissonant and radiant folk-jazz.

The debut album by Arc Iris is a small wonder, perfectly designed and distinctively pop, while remaining impressively progressive for all its accessibility. It may well fill a similar role as last year's Loud City Song in this year's best of lists, showcasing an impressively diverse female composer and a compelling personality.

The multi-instrumentalist is best known as one foundation stone of Rhode Island's the Low Anthem. As middle of the road and crowd-pleasing as that band can occasionally seem, her side project is a band apart. Persistently asexual, the Low Anthem are the kind of act that is primed for Hunger Games soundtracks. Arc Iris would work better backing up a Wes Anderson western.

Musical theatre and Calexico's lighter moments provide touchstones for the ambition on display in tracks like 'Canadian Cowboy', a spinning, Bush-ian masterpiece and 'Whiskey Man'. If the former isn't one my tracks of 2014, it will have been an incredible year in music. At over 6 1/2 minutes, it's a grand assemblage with a repetitive, episodic structure that doesn't drag for a second. The subject material is familiar in the best sense, a warm evocation of yearning for the backwoods. The execution comes with a raised eyebrow and a brief show of leg, as well as that slightly mad aspect that so many great female songwriters of recent years have felt able to tackle without becoming parodies of cupcake feminism.

Staples of Americana are prepared like party costumes, the lithe figure of Adams always apparent beneath. 'Ditch' is a once-glorious drive-in movie romance that festered in the memory, dotted with memorable lyrics: "Gaining weight and getting stoned / but you my dear are all alone." The two part 'Honor of the Rainbows' sequence lies at the album's crux, providing a wolfish rest-stop. Avoiding having her material sound arch is an achievement in itself. It's like Debbie Reynolds was reborn as a classically trained and tattooed band leader.

The album is haunted by the remnants of a provincial Christianity, with Adams symbolically casting off Old Nick's embrace in the Louisa May Allcott-esque 'Honor of the Rainbows II' and frequent mentions of the devil-drink and even the devil-cocaine. Bar-room shuffles abound, with jaunty stabs at rockabilly and saloon jazz. The balancing act between the temptation to be bad while fundamentally remaining innocent is repeatedly explored, particularly in the album's most conventional track 'Powder Train'.

It's worth taking a second to praise Adams's voice. The closest comparison I could find was Emilianna Torrini, although she removes herself from the microphone enough to not become a breathy parody. Her falsetto on 'Canadian Cowboy' is skilfully fragile and gives a dusky, whirling feeling to the album's best track. Fans of Angus and Julia Stone will also recognise the territory Adams inhabits, though she injects much-needed humour to their soul searching.

Arc Iris is a breezy, clever and flirtatious debut solo album which immediately puts Jocie Adams's former output firmly behind her, and should find her a devoted and expectant audience.