Album: Chvrches - The Bones Of What You Believe (Virgin) ****
IF there's a formula for success which pop bands can follow, Glasgow three-piece Chvrches' copy must have been lost in the mail.
They've completely dingied the section on "have a simple, easy-to-remember name". I don't know how to pronounce Chvrches and something in my journalistic DNA makes it very difficult for my finger to ignore the "U" key every time I type the band's name.
And while they look cool in that understated way, they clearly haven't asked their record label for a stylist. They look like three pals who wear each others' t-shirts.
But on the rule that says "employ the most attractive singer you can find", they've stuck hard and fast to the guidelines.
It also helps that Lauren Mayberry's voice is the perfect partner to Chvrches' electro indie stylings.
"I'll be a thorn in your side for always," sings Lauren on We Sink, sending shivers up the spine of every hot-blooded male who comes within earshot of this wonderfully accomplished debut record.
Her Scots accent cuts through the songs, especially on The Mother We Share.
Gun is an early highlight on the album, with its threatening lyrics managing to somehow sound sweet.
Lies is another standout, with synths creating a massive soundscape in the mould of some of Depeche Mode's most energetic work.
The voice brings to mind The Knife and, at times, Bjork, but that accent helps to set Lauren apart.
While the album never strays far from the slightly laid back electro template of Recover and Lungs (which are both excellent), you couldn't describe this as repetitive or samey.
There's plenty here to warrant repeated listens and Chvrches are surely set to be one of the big success stories of 2013. This is our undisputed album of the week.
Album: Sting - The Last Ship (A&M Records) **
THE Last Ship, Sting's first studio album in 10 years, is completely bonkers.
Even though he's been a solo star for much longer than he was in The Police, you can't help associate him with the gems produced in those early days.
And nothing on The Last Ship comes within a country mile of those songs.
But to be fair, this is an album based on a Broadway show of the same name, so it was never likely to be jam packed with rock classics.
But neither did we expect it to be quite so strange.
Sting adopts a stronger Newcastle accent than he usually displays on record as he rolls through a collection of minimalist folk songs, some of which sound like the kind of thing sailors on a lost ship might sing.
The play The Last Ship is a tale of the demise of a shipyard, so the theme of this record fits quite well in that context.
It's just difficult to imagine exactly who will buy this album. Fans of The Police won't have much interest, and followers of Sting's solo career will be equally perplexed.
Perhaps this album will make more sense when the play arrives, but right now it's all a little bit odd.
Album: Drake - Nothing Was The Same (Cash Money Records) *
DRAKE'S new album gets off to a bad start.
Tuscan Leather is, possibly, the worst six minutes of music recorded this year. Drake's "rapping" is lazy and disconnected, while some ridiculous Crazy Frog style backing vocals have been shoehorned into what is already a dreadful mix.
The good news is it can only get better, right?
Well yes, but sadly not much better.
Remember that ridiculous R Kelly rap opera thing? You know, the one with the little person hiding in a cupboard.
Most of Drake's Nothing Was The Same sounds like tracks rejected from R Kelly's sessions for Trapped In The Closet.
There are a few decent moments. Hold On, We're Going Home is probably only average, but buried as it is in this album, it sounds like a masterpiece at first listen.
That is until the cheese-laden chorus kicks in and has you reaching for the skip button. Again, the backing vocals are bizarre and don't fit at all.
All Me and Too Much are decent tracks, but they're not enough to save what is, to say the least, a lacklustre record.
Single: Haim - The Wire (Polydor) ****
CARDS on the table ... we LOVE Haim.
Everything about the four-piece from California is awesome, not least that three of them are sisters and that they sound a lot like Fleetwood Mac when Fleetwood Mac were the best band in the world.
Previous singles Forever and Falling were stunning, and while The Wire perhaps doesn't have the same immediate impact, it's still a brilliant pop song delivered in a way unlike anything else out there at the moment.
It's probably the most upbeat song Haim have produced so far, with a bouncy chorus and an optimistic feeling.
As we wait patiently for their debut album to drop, we can at least revel in the sunshine-laden pop goodness of The Wire. And revel we shall.
If you like the sound of Chvrches, Haim, Drake and Sting, check out Stef Lach's Spotify playlist for this week - a selection of tracks from similar artists to those featured in this week's reviews.
Like Chvrches? Check out...
Depeche Mode - Precious
The Knife - Heartbeats
Like Haim? Check out...
Fleetwood Mac - Little Lies
The Long Blondes - Once And Never Again
Like Sting? Check out...
Fleet Foxes - Mykonos
Cat Stevens - If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out
Like Drake? Check out...
R Kelly - Trapped In The Closet
Mos Def - Auditorium
Spotify Playlist link https://play.spotify.com/user/steflach/playlist/4dJmCrqbuzA2u3vci8sa5z