I first heard songs from this album when I saw Cate Le Bon open for Manic Street Preachers in Dublin a couple of months ago. It was just her on a stage for about 25 minutes, but her songs managed to have a surprising impact on a quarter-full room with space for 1500 people. Mixed in with past material, the songs from Mug Museum stood out from what surrounded them by marking somewhat of a shift in Le Bon's sound. Her songs have always had a sort of exquisitely sad aura around them, but her latest work is powerful in a way that last year's CYRK wasn't. While that album was a more playful and adventurous successor to what had come before, it is on her third record that she comes into her own, embracing pop songwriting in her own idiosyncratic way. Her thick Welsh accent will be an acquired taste for some, but the pin-sharp psych-pop that backs it certainly won't be.

The sound of the album is bright and snappy: bone-dry drums and sharp guitars infuse the peppy 'No God' with a burst of energy, one that makes the contrast with the mournful 'I Think I Knew' all the more marked. The latter track allows the record to hit its stride, Le Bon assisted on vocals by Turnstile stable-mate Perfume Genius. Mike Hadreas's vocals sound as tender and fragile as they've ever been, and his harmonies with Le Bon on the song's second chorus are spot-on. It's a definite highlight of an album that is nonetheless consistently impressive. Le Bon's Nico-esque vocal delivery is most effective when she remains conscious of her limits as a singer - there are times when she goes for high notes and doesn't quite reach them, but this can be easily overlooked, as she's in possession of a singing voice that is undeniably captivating. Once you start warming up to it, it begins to sound like a perfect fit for her style of music.

Le Bon is assisted on this album, as she was on previous efforts, by H. Hawkline on guitar, and Stephen Black (aka Sweet Baboo) on bass, and they provide a solid backing for her expressive voice and dark lyrics. There's less of what she herself has referred to as her "abnormal fixation with death," but it hardly means that she's suddenly lightened up. 'Duke' and the gut-wrenching title track are particularly emotional moments, offset by her lightness of touch and impressive way with melody. The latter track is a piano-driven slow-burner which closes the album; punctuated by blasts of brass, it threatens to break out into a raucous finale before thinking better of it and quietly fading away, acting as a fitting final chapter in a story that definitely tells a different tale than what we'd already heard from Le Bon. It's barely been more than 18 months since CYRK, but she's managed to move her sound forward considerably in that time, while proving that she's in for the long haul with a concise and commanding third album.