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In 2009 an unknown musician named Dan Willson, under the moniker Withered Hand, came out of near musical obscurity to release a record of subtle beauty. This lush debut, entitled Good News, gained plaudits with everyone from Mojo to Rolling Stone; commending its sparse arrangements and intelligent lyrical style.

After five years away the Edinburgh troubadour is finally back with his much anticipated follow-up, and this time he's brought friends along for the ride. It's a veritable who's who of Scottish folk royalty including members of Frightened Rabbit, Belle & Sebastian and King Creosote; even the luxury of a proper studio and producer (The legendary Tony Doogan (Mogwai, Mountain Goats, Teenage Fanclub), is afforded this time round.

As the opening passages of New Gods greet the listener, the sound is almost unidentifiable as Withered Hand. Gone is the muddy instrumentation and tortured vocals which made the debut album what it was, replaced with a clean and increasingly confident full band sound; reminiscent of '90s indie-rock with heavy helpings of Manic Street Preachers at their most melodic. This is by no means to their detriment. What Willson illustrates on opener 'Horseshoe' and lead single 'Black Tambourine' is a stylistic versatility that many didn't expect to see exercised so freely on this follow-up LP. However, much like The Mountain Goat's on 'Tallahassee', this is a transitional record which sees a move away from lo-fi roots, taking the step-up to increased production and a fuller band sound.

That's not to say that this stylistic change is without its pitfalls. On 'Love Over Desire' there are moments where the increasingly melodic sound bounds its way into the realms of twee indie-pop at its most formulaic. Its chorus repeats "love, love, love, love" with frustrating frequency - but just when you think Willson has strayed too far from what made him such an intelligent and witty songwriter, he proclaims the following lyric with devilishly satirical delivery: "I put my hand in my pocket and forgot about the travel pussy, another flower on the coffin of monogamy." It's little sparks like this turn New Gods from a promising follow up, into a triumphant return.

The wonky alt-indie of 'King of Hollywood' shows the band's more quirky musicianship, and anti-hipster mentality ("I fell asleep watching a buzz band; some people were losing their shit, please say I'm misunderstood"). On 'Fall Apart' the sentimentality of young love is exposed with humbling honesty ("you said it was nothing, but to me it felt like everything alive"); a subject echoed on 'Between True Love and Ruin', this time with the wisdom which comes with years.

New Gods eases it's way to it's subtle climax with two of it's most stunning laments. 'Life of Doubt' is an Americana masterpiece about Willson's struggles with commitment; lashing out in self-sabotage when all he wants to do is fully throw caution to the wind ('I'm not one to sift for gold among the dirt of what was said'). The album's title track also features its strongest vocal performance. Here Willson is at his self-deprecating best on this piece of beautifully confessional storytelling, uttering stunning lyrics line after line ("New Gods for this ungodly man").

Although on the surface this sophomore record is a less vulnerable effort than his acclaimed debut, if the listener scratches even a little below the up-tempo melodies they will discover the same shambolic protagonist, struggling with the strife of everyday life which they fell in love.