There’s a moment halfway through Alex Lahey’s The Best of Luck Club when a saxophone triumphantly explodes into life and lifts the whole record several notches. It’s cheesy and spikey; a blaze of red velvet across faded denim. Her debut album had a bunch of similar moments - its follow up feels like a missed opportunity.

Lahey says she aimed to rail against pretension and fakery on her new album, inspired as it is by dive-bar conversations with the residents of Nashville. She has said that the saxophone moment was only added as an afterthought - a joke at her own expense. That joke feels like the spark of unpredictability sadly lacking elsewhere.

The Melbourne-based songwriter also says her second album is intended to be more polished than her 2017 debut I Love You Like A Brother, which is odd, as that album feels at least as smart as this one, sonically speaking. That collection’s standout track, ‘I Want U’, is beautifully constructed. If she’d driven closer to the edge with some of the production choices on her new album, the results might be more uniformly striking.

As a songwriter, Lahey undoubtedly has the range. ‘Unspoken History’ sits at the nerve centre of this record, throwing waves of beauty out against the less interesting material that bookends it. The song has the sedentary reflectiveness of Cyndi Lauper, although understandably not the genius with melody. ‘I Want To Live With You’ recalls Belinda Carlisle - all of the best stuff on here does.

Often, it’s hard to shake a sense that this is a jobbing songwriter in search of a niche. ‘Isabella’ is a straight-as-you-like pop song that could have been pretty huge for The Kooks. ‘Am I Doing Right?’ is a rocker in the mode of early Pink. lyrics like "I struggle to assert myself so I suppress and censor/ but gradually it boils up and starts to drive me mental/ I’ve noticed my relationships all follow this trajectory/ I’ll love you ‘til the day I die until it is too much for me," are pleasingly raw, and the arrangements straightforward enough to not contrast with what are pretty ripe emotions. The question is, why isn’t the music holding together in support of that emotional core?

Is Lahey meant to be a rocker with crossover appeal, a tender songwriter, or a Hollywood popstar in the old mould – with talent enough to spread herself across genres? The Best of Luck Club doesn’t quite prove any of these to be the case.

That saxophone blast on ‘Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself’ feels like it should herald a way forward. When it arrives, it’s layered over an otherwise pedestrian rock backing track. If Alex Lahey can find more transcendent moments like that to pepper her albums with, she’ll do something wonderful. Achieving that would require more interesting production, and more challenge from the team working around her. ‘Unspoken History’ and ‘I Want U’ show she has real talent. With more work, and more pain, she might graduate from The Best of Luck Club.