Conor Mason, a singer-songwriter from Derry, is somebody who whispers more than he shouts- his music has an understated quality, and this has perhaps led to him being more underrated than he really should be. That’s not to say he hasn’t been successful, though; after splitting from his first band, Gentle Ben, Conor Mason toured extensively around Glasgow before releasing his debut album, When It’s Over, in 2009. It was a consistently laid back record full of quiet, lilting vocals and a sort of comforting tranquillity that earned it some, but not masses of, praise and recognition. There’s a sense that in his second album,Standstill, Conor Mason is headed in a more noticeable direction, and it’s time that he got the recognition he deserves.

I’m going to start with the second track, and one of the best moments of Standstill: ‘Lights’. ‘Lights’ hit you like a slap in the face, if slaps in the face were actually songs consisting of warm, jangling cymbals and magnetic sighs. I’d synced the entire album onto my iPod meaning to listen to it on the bus at some point, when Lights came on over shuffle. It was one of those songs that made me stop and check to see who it was, not just because I’d never heard it before, but because it was so refreshing. As introductions to artists go, that was a pretty good one. It’s not going to be a gigantic hit, but who really wants that nowadays? It’s beautiful and cheerful in a simplistic way, and sometimes that’s all you need.

The album kicks off with a trumpet at the beginning of ‘Misunderstood’ which proves that Standstill is taking a step up from the predominantly acoustic quality of most of the tracks on When It’s Over. Parts of ‘Misunderstood’ introduce an optimistic almost alternative rock genre that contrasts with Mason’s soft voice and the rest of the album. ‘Words’ is partially a slow, atmospheric ballad with hushed vocals. It suddenly launches into a country-sounding, catchy chorus of "these words, they’re not useless, but they won’t work on their own." But there’s still an element of stillness in the strings behind this animated chorus. ‘Words’ flows into ‘Standstill’, a steady combination of folky acoustic guitar playing accompanied by a constant drumming.

The album continues with ‘Out of The Blue’, in which Mason’s harmonica playing skills lend this love song a forlorn feeling. There’s a feeling that this album could get a little tedious if it wasn’t for the amount of variation; the sudden influx of drums in ‘5am’, the chilled nostalgia of ‘Sundown’, the upbeat mood of ‘In The Doorway’; these things are what makes this album a whole lot more interesting.

Standstill isn’t quite one of those albums with a grab-you-by-the-throat sound, but it’s much more outspoken than Mason’s debut, and there’s a sense that he’s much more comfortable in what he’s doing in this record. As the album comes to a dreamlike end with a refrain of "we set out in search of the sun," there’s a sense that the consistent happiness in Standstill provides an escape, and it’s to somewhere that you’ll want to visit again.