You don’t have to listen to Cate Le Bon’s music for very long to see why artists like Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox and her DRINKS cohort Tim Presley desire to work with her. Le Bon’s work covers so much emotional and intellectual territory with her music, from whimsy to reflection and surreality. And it’s all anchored by her bewitching vocals, as close to a contemporary Nico as we might ever get.

But if Le Bon’s touch can act as a charm for collaborators, she’s been steadfast about sourcing inspiration primarily from herself. Le Bon seems to know that there must be something beyond the voice to give something potency. It’s what separates the Björks from the Adeles.

Le Bon’s fifth studio album, Reward, isn’t a Homogenic or Vespertine-level masterpiece, but it’s a charming and moving work. First developed while living in isolation in the Lake District of Cumbria, about five hours from her home country of Wales, it wasn’t recorded in isolation, as she received help from the likes of Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Josh Klinghoffer, but there are no signs of others determining the trajectory of Le Bon’s sound. If anything, Reward has positively cemented her signature style.

And what is Le Bon’s signature style? You know it when you hear it, but you have to hear it first. It takes a special talent to be able to present an unmistakable sound but still leave you surprised. Calling an artist creative can seem like faint praise, as anyone who’s seen an Ed Wood film can attest. Le Bon is an auteur who avoids the complacency that could come with such a title. Not every track on Reward is as impressive as the pity party of ‘Daylight Matters’, with its angelic “I love you” chorus, or the mournful ‘Here It Comes Again’ (“I borrowed love from carnivals”), but all ten of them carve out their own special world.

Speaking of carving, part of Le Bon’s time in Cumbria was spent handcrafting wood furniture. Reward might not be the kind of music Ron Swanson would gravitate to (his woodworking and less emotionally-stunted alter-ego Nick Offerman hopefully would), but it has patience and resilience, both in words and arrangements, that she hopefully channeled into her newfound craft. Much of the album is spent examining wounds before they have the chance to become scars. Opener ‘Miami’ is a reflection on changes, with chiming synths, whispering strums, and saxophone that fills in space. It’s more than a minute before Le Bon’s vocals enter, but the melodies are so poignant, you hardly mind; there’s even a subtle aquatic feel, as the song moves like steady waves.

Le Bon is one of the last artists you might expect to be named in conjunction with Tyler, the Creator, but Reward has some thematic similarities with the rapper’s IGOR. However, it’s got far more character and things to say about heartbreak. Few tracks aim for the tear ducts; even if the refrain to closer ‘Meet the Man’ is sung with unabashed vulnerability, the off-kilter synth notes keep things from ever coming close to saccharine. The concluding lines, “Love is beautiful to me/ Love is you,” are absolutely earned.

Such a moment is earned in part because of how well she phrases earlier musings. The mannered art pop of ‘The Light’ is elevated by lines like, “Holding the door to my own tragedy/ Take blame for the hurt/ but the hurt belongs to me.” Le Bon also finds room for getting eccentric with her compositions, like with the choppy sax and rapidly-shifting volume of the vocals on ‘Mother’s Mother’s Magazines’ (the closest thing here to a DRINKS song), and the playful refrain of “drip drip drip” in the refrain of ‘Magnificent Gestures’.

Reward could easily exist in a decade long since past but become a hidden gem, along the lines of Linda Perhac’s Parallelograms or Vashti Bunyan’s Just Another Diamond Day. Thanks to streaming, far more people will be able to hear it, but word still needs to get out about it and the rest of her catalogue - a talent like Le Bon is far too special to be taken for granted.