In February of this year, I went to a gig in Glasgow’s The Bay. I’m a huge Brian Wilson fan, and I was thrilled to see that Nelson Bragg, Brian’s percussionist, was playing at such an intimate venue.

Among the support acts on the evening was a youngish guy from Stoke via Dublin called Duncan Maitland. His credentials were exemplary: he had played with, among others, Pugwash and Picturehouse. Duncan’s set included songs from his 2004 'Live Alien EP' and his then recently released debut solo album 'Lullabies for the 21st Century'. I was blown away by Duncan’s song-craft, and promptly bought a copy of his CD.

The following day I must have played the CD six or seven times, and each time was better than the last. I was initially struck by Duncan’s gift for melody. Opening track 'Your Century' and second track 'Terry the Toad' are wonderful examples of Duncan’s gift. 'Terry the Toad' in particular proved to be a real ear-worm for me, and I simply couldn’t get the melody out of my head.

The mood of the album is light and breezy, with top-notch musicianship throughout. Duncan’s lead vocals are incredible, and his overlaid harmonies are pure Beach Boys perfection – just listen to the “ba-ba-ba-ba” on 'Crash Position' and you’ll understand.

Listening to 'Lullabies…' immediately made me think of the High Llamas. The joyful pop and sparkle of Maitland’s songs match Sean O’Hagan’s in terms of quality. Despite their pop sensibilities, however, Duncan’s songs are never fluffy, and a listen to the lyrics makes one realise that this is an artist with more to say than most.

With a unique blend of harmony, melody and quirky subject matter, Duncan Maitland has created a micro-pop masterpiece. I have no hesitation in recommending 'Lullabies for the 21st Century' to anyone.

Despite some very stiff competition 'Lullabies for the 21st Century' has been my album of the year this year. I can’t wait to hear what Duncan Maitland releases next.

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