Natalie McCool – The Great Unknown (3 stars)

Natalie McCool – The Great Unknown

Accessible alt-pop from the Liverpool Music Week Award winner

Despite its title, this second album from Liverpool singer, songwriter and guitarist Natalie McCool feels warm, familiar and easy to navigate – an accessible trip through alternative pop, dark electro and bluesy rock.

McCool is a graduate of the Liverpool Institute of the Performing Arts (LIPA). She picked up the garland for Best Female Artist of the Year at Liverpool Music Week Awards a few years back, and her early career was championed by some of the biggest names in pop: while studying, she had songwriting sessions with LIPA's instigator, Paul McCartney, and as a teenager she won a songwriting competition which was judged by Coldplay's Chris Martin and legendary producer / engineer Steve Levine (Culture Club, the Clash, XTC).

The Great Unknown celebrates small steps and giant leaps: shimmering tech ballad 'Pins' sees the narrator try to extract herself from a relationship (relatively) unscathed, chiming guitar mantra 'Dig It Out' encircles and reaches for places and planets and echoes Icarus ('I burnt myself trying to touch the sun'), and 'Fortress' revels in self-sufficient gospel pop ('let's build a fortress, and we'll never fall').

McCool's new offering was crowdfunded through Pledge Music, and is a more upbeat affair than her 2014 eponymous debut (which saw the singer team up with Suede's Bernard Butler on celestial rock anthem 'Thin Air').

Her love of, and knack for, classic pop is evident. It shines through on dizzying, grudge-bearing synth chorale 'Feel Good' ('I never forget it when someone does me wrong') – which calls to mind Erasure's 'The Circus' – and on the driving euphoria of 'Cardiac Arrest'. That song, says McCool, is about 'having a party in your body – "red carpet arteries and champagne capillaries …"' – and sounds a lot more fun in song than it does on paper.

Out Fri 9 Sep on Pledge Music.

Natalie McCool

Folk music from Natalie McCool.

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