Head here to submit your own review of this album.

Too often we can dismiss any singer-songwriter simply because of their title as a 'singer-songwriter', or write off any whacky accompanying stories as gimmicky ploys to capture the neutral's attention. I must admit, upon hearing that Stephen Steinbrink had travelled America in quiz teams and includes field recordings of church bells in his music, I was sceptical. However the reality is that he's simply a prodigal, prolific musician from a sleepy part of Phoenix, Arizona making the most of an otherwise quite dreary upbringing.

Not one to waste away in the banalities of a suburban life, at just 16 he was opening for the likes of the Dirty Projectors and Jason Molina and since then he's recorded nine entire albums (some under the alias French Quarter). The latest of which, Arranged Waves, captured the attention of the UK's Melodic Records and is arguably the most progressive and accessible of the bunch.

Perhaps the first thing that stands out with Steinbrink is his high-pitched, effeminate vocal, which often just faintly pitter-patters over a wonderfully arranged psychedelic-folk ensemble. On tracks like 'Now You See Everything' and 'Sand Mandalas' which exhibit rich and diverse musical backdrops, this combination works delightfully as his ponderous whimsy is set deep into the song like another instrument. Indeed Steinbrink records every layer himself, a credit to his considerable talent and musicianship, often bringing contemporaries like Damien Jurado or Real Estate to mind.

Elsewhere however, when the hearty rhythms take a back seat and his marmalade-twee vocal aesthetic becomes inescapable, it can feel a little sickly and almost insultingly gentle. As if Mac Demarco has become a kids T.V. presenter. 'Trust' for example could quite easily have an animated counterpart hitting somewhere between the Teletubbies and Moomins in playfulness meets eeriness.

However, Stephen Steinbrink is at his best when experimenting with song structures, layering and effects, drawing from sixties rock 'n' roll and psychedelia through to eighties yacht-rock. 'Synesthetic Ephemera' is a distinctive highlight where gentle piano and guitars beautifully combine before the crescendo insights a blissful daze that could continue eternally. Two-parter 'A Simply Armature...' and 'It Takes A Lot...' showcase exactly how well the man can craft a pop song - which, if released 50 years ago, would probably be heralded as an anthem.

Overall, Arranged Waves is quite a remarkable record, reflecting the 'popular' woozy slide guitars of the moment yet repackaging them with a more nostalgic, dreamy and creative approach. Much can be said of the poeticism in his lyrics, which is brilliant at times but at others just sounds like he's saying assorted words that sound good together. Ultimately if you can get over (or enjoy!?) his distinctively corny delivery then you're on to a winner because the rest is a scarcely trodden, rich playground of diverse and inspired musical adventure.

This is the place you'll find reviews from 405 Readers. To join in, head here.