"[Our debut] Dead to Me literally was dead to us by the time it was committed to wax." So says Cathal Cully, the lead singer and songwriter in Girls Names. Back then, in 2011, they were a trio, but now that they've expanded their line-up and become a quartet, there's a definite sense that they want to start from scratch. It's even there in the title of their new record. They spent a year touring behind an album they seemingly didn't care for; there are times when a band becomes tired of playing the same songs live, but the Belfast band's situation was an unenviable one. Last seen releasing a split single with Weird Dreams, their new material presented a band in flux. They still hadn't nailed down their new direction, which is probably why the track from that split release, 'A Troubled See', hasn't made it onto the new album. In hindsight, though, that was definitely a good idea, because the level of reinvention heard on The New Life is worthy of bands like The Horrors. Just as Faris Badwan and co. abandoned their early gothic rock sound in search of something with more lasting appeal, so too have Girls Names undergone a transformation.

A brief synth-led intro leads into the bass-driven 'Pittura Infamante', which immediately establishes the new record's sound. Girls Names MK II are a more psychedelic proposition, their swirling melodies coated in reverb, and their soundstage considerably wider. The lo-fi aesthetic of their debut is gone, and it's been replaced by a much fuller sound. Their hooks have become stronger, too: the instantly memorable introduction to 'Occultation' is worth its weight in gold. The quartet's sound takes a more measured turn in places, such as on 'A Second Skin', but those worried that the energy contained in songs such as 'Bury Me' has been lost need not worry: the staccato guitar line that heralds 'Hypnotic Regression' (the album's current single) packs quite a punch, and 'The Olympia' is reminiscent of a slightly more amped-up Antics-era Interpol, right down to Cully's strong, Paul Banks-esque baritone.

The band's US label, Slumberland, has a reputation when it comes to this kind of thing, so it makes sense that they've found a home there. Dead to Me was a fine debut, but it pales in comparison to its successor. The title track, unveiled back in October, was a signpost signalling where the band were headed to next, but it was really only the tip of the iceberg. They've finally stuck their heads above the parapet, and this album will announce to the world that they're a band with big ambitions. They've swapped brevity for longevity (figuratively as well as literally), meaning that The New Life is an album that has seriously high replay value. Since start life in 2009 as a duo, they've come a long way, and have the potential to go further still. This accomplished album showcases a band reborn, refreshed and raring to go - and it shows that they've got the sort of can-do spirit that could see them make serious waves this year.