Paul Simon's brilliant new album Stranger to Stranger is a charming record, which takes you by surprise from the very first note played.

To be surprised on an album by a septigenarian pop-folk singer/songwriter is itself unexpected. Take fellow pensioner and Beach Boys creator Brian Wilson, who - legendary though his work is - has sadly tended to re-tread the same old ground on his past few solo albums, sharing none of his 'sent from heaven' psychedelic pop charm of his golden years. Now, let's be fair, Simon has also been guilty of getting stuck in a rut (see the early '90s), but his new album, Stranger to Stranger, is a pleasure-filled exploration of rhythm, melody, instrumentation and lyrical themes which has joyful experimentation at its heart. Here, we're presented with the sort of exploration you'd expect from a younger act on their third or fourth album, perhaps - trying for their Kid A - not an album by a 74-year-old master of the Great American Songbook who wrote Smooth FM mainstays such as 'Still Crazy (After All These Years)' and 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' all those years ago.

Of course, old masters trying new things can lead to disastrous consequences. Lest we forget Bowie's experimentation with drum & bass, which hasn't aged particularly well. But on Stranger to Stranger, each of Simon's new ideas is also coupled with his knack for making even the most out-there and unusual sound familiar and charming. There's something about his stream-of-consciousness lyrical wandering and effortless, lilting melodies that make you feel like each track on this album has two options for listening: challenging or comforting. You can get stuck into the Jungle Book bongos and jazz/world inspired structures he's exploring on many of these tracks, or you can switch, should you wish, onto his timeless vocals and storytelling, and suddenly you're listening to a Paul Simon track you feel like you've been hearing for decades. Both levels are equally rewarding.

Midway through the album tracks such as 'Proof of Love' and 'In The Garden of Edie' keep things in more recognisable Simon territory - the latter being a sweetly played acoustic ballad - but then final track 'Insomniac's Lullaby' bring things right back to the weird. It aims to do as it says on the tin - send the listener to sleep - but the song's odd changes and unusual entrances of instruments and sounds keep you from ever drifting off.

For a 74-year-old musical treasure with a host of number one songs and albums and a stronghold within the modern cultural consciousness, this is a fantastic album. In fact - scratch that first part. This is simply a fantastic album.