The Time The Hour Hal Records ***

Difficult second album syndrome shouldn’t apply to Hal. Here’s a band that responded to the wave of positivity that greeted their debut seven years ago by withdrawing from the public eye. Fortunately for the Dublin four-piece, their brand of soft-rock and West Coast pop doesn’t need a best-before date. The harmonies and handclaps, falsettos and impeccable arrangements on Be With You and Going To The City point to the overwhelming influence of The Beach Boys and Harry Nilsson, while Why Do You Come Here is a slice of Bee Gees-like, blue-eyed soul. An original voice is conspicuously absent and chief songwriter Dave Allen could do worse than taking a leaf from fellow Irish artists (Villagers, Pugwash and Divine Comedy for example) who imbue their music with a stronger sense of identity while still showing due deference to the past. halmusic.com  BRIAN KEANE

Download tracks: Be With You, Going To The City