Show Me How The Spectres Dance, credited to Frost and his band The Slowdown Family, was a beautifully crafted album full of painfully honest songs including The Mourners Of St Paul’s, about the deaths of his father and brother.
Yet, despite the plaudits of the likes of Guy Garvey, the album’s sales failed to match its critical acclaim, and Frost seemed destined to become one of the many singer/songwriters who just fade into obscurity.
Three years on though, and Frost is back, this time credited without his band, but with a second album that builds on the promise shown by his debut.
Behind the unwieldy title lies a bright, commercial pop-folk record which could easily sit comfortably on most radio stations. As ever with Frost though, there’s a pleasingly dark side which keeps any blandness at bay.
For those people who were won over by Frost’s more reflective side on his debut, several songs on his second album may come as a bit of a shock. Take the duet with Martha Wainwright, Your Hand In Mine. Co-written with Ed Harcourt, it’s almost ridiculously perky, bouncing along so merrily that the initial effect is a tad jarring.
Yet, Wainwright’s voice melds perfectly with Frost’s, and the upbeat melody soon becomes strangely addictive. It’s a similar story with Good Things, which has a Ben Folds-style bounce to it which powers the song along nicely.
It’s the sadder side of Frost that charms mostly though. The stripped down sound of Skylark Avenue, with its poetic lyrics about Frost’s childhood home, is an obvious highlight, while Shipwrecks is even better – an eerie, slightly sinister song with a message that “when you lay with dogs, you wake with fleas”.
There’s also the autobiographical nature of Leading Lights And Luminaries, a direct message to Frost’s fans which is striking for the personal nature of the lyrics (“I’m just happy that you people seem to like these broken melodies…and I really love this world, despite its various inadequacies”).
The lyrics throughout are excellent, particularly Two Hearts’ dissection of writing about unrequited love – “I’ve been chasing your ghost down the black and white notes” – while every musical genre seems to be covered, right up to the finger-clicking, doo-wop ballad of the closing Orchestra Of Love (another Harcourt co-write).
Whether there’s enough here to bring Frost his much-deserved critical success is debatable – after all, the singer/songwriter market is infamously crowded. Yet those who do explore this excellent album will be discovering Manchester’s best kept secret.