In many ways, A Curious Thing very much picks up where those songs left off, with a sense of genuine energy keeping things listenable despite its flaws. Lead single 'Don't Tell Me That It's Over' is probably the record's best-realised mix of chugging '90s Britpop guitars and MacDonald's folksy voice and melodies. However, the most interesting track is 'No Roots', which starts with a frail, stripped-back guitar line before building layer-upon-layer until the two-minute mark. At that point the drums kick in and the downbeat freedom of the lyrics duel it out with the bounce of the chorus in a fight for your attention ("I got no roots, they're not set in stone / I got no place that I call home / I'm just a low low lonely soul").
Elsewhere, and despite plenty of catchy hooks sung in that lovely accent, the album is let down by a certain saminess which stops the songs from distinguishing themselves. While 'My Only One' might not boast the same instant melody as the rest of the record, its more delicate stylings offer a welcome folky oasis in the middle of the record, evoking teary-eyed faces standing firm in bracing Highland landscapes. Similarly, 'Troubled Soul' brings some much-needed lightness and space to proceedings.
At times the guitars are close to plodding, while a bit more imagination from behind the mixing desk would have done MacDonald's melodies the justice they deserve. The lyrics sometimes get lost because of this, but what you can make out is mixed - the beauty-on-the-inside/nature-of-fame rants of 'This Pretty Face' ("It's no good with your hair and shiny blue eyes") and 'An Ordinary Life' ("I don't care about the camera / I don't care about the lights") are particularly throwaway examples. However, A Curious Thing is never less-than-pleasant and deserves to sell well over the course of 2010 - and not just North of the border.