Full disclosure: I needed a hell of a lot of convincing before I came around to Frankie & the Heartstrings. Debut album 'Hunger' didn't seem to have any, mostly leaving me indifferent - and sometimes completely cold. I had them down as one of those bands who clearly had passion and drive, but lacked the sort of killer hooks a band like this needs to get ahead. I enjoy indie-pop as much as the next guy, but the Sunderland band just weren't doing it for me, at least not until I heard 'Everybody Looks Better (In the Right Light)' toward the end of 2011, a short, sharp shock of a song that got a surprising amount of things done in little over two minutes. A year and a half later, it's turned up on their second album and is the weakest song on it. It's still very good, it's just that the quintet have raised their game considerably. They certainly do look better in the right light; they sound better, too, and producer Bernard Butler deserves as much credit for that as the band themselves do.

The familiar jangle-pop sound of old has been given added punch, with current single 'Nothing Our Way' helping the album to settle after it makes an immediate impression with opening pair 'I Will Follow You' and 'That Girl, That Scene'. Clunky lyrics crop up on the latter, but the band, led by Frankie Francis, have stepped things up enough that misplaced lines like, "I'm not the kind of guy that likes to take it slow / I'm not the kind of guy you want your mum to know" (coming on a bit strong there, perhaps?) aren't as much of an issue as they used to be. They can get away with more, which is why dropping the slow-burning 'Losing A Friend' right in the middle of the record actually works to their advantage as they shift things down a gear or two, the addition of glockenspiel (as well as some strings that are off-key and shouldn't work, but do) showing that they have enough talent to handle being taken well out of their comfort zone.

This band aren't meant to write slow songs, but they should do more of that, as 'Losing A Friend' is far more than just an effective breather during an 11-song album that barely breaches 30 minutes in length. It's certainly brief, but it also makes a strong impact. Despite its drab, monochromatic artwork, The Days Run Away is a gloriously colourful listen, tipping its hat to indie-pop luminaries of the past - some of the new material makes one think of The Smiths with a frontman who isn't miserable - rather than being slightly too in thrall to its influences, like its predecessor. The album doesn't mess about, and is even more direct than what came before, with songs like 'Invitation' and 'She Will Say Goodbye' showing that the band were just getting warmed up with their debut. The Days Run Away won't win any prizes for originality, but it's got a lot of heart, and is difficult to resist, if not all but impossible. Mission accomplished.