With a back story that highlights a period spent living beside Mumford & Sons, it's natural to assume that Alan Pownall's debut album is another missive from London's ever-expanding modern folk scene. But we all know what the adage regarding such behaviour says, and it's soon very apparent that True Love Stories is far removed indeed from the sumptuous sonic sketches laid down by the likes of Laura Marling and Johnny Flynn.
Pownall's songs, while fairly delicate of design, are indebted to a greater extent to the chill-out acoustica of Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz. To some, this will immediately set alarm bells ringing; to others, it's all the information needed to mark True Love Stories as the next CD they pick up when doing the weekly shop. To call these compositions laidback would be some understatement - songs like Life Worth Living, Chasing Time and Turn Me Down are so lazy they're horizontal, and any attempt to spy the stars for inspiration is impaired by the blinding sun they're best experienced beneath. Flip-flops and patterned Bermuda shorts - Pownall might not sport such questionable fashion items, but his music will slide effortlessly into the background of any summer pool party, complementing perfectly the seasonal smells of burning bangers and sun tan lotion.
Colourful Day turns the bleached-out vibe down somewhat, its mournful feel edging Pownall nearer to the likes of Coldplay and Elbow than any token guitar-toting troubadour. The title's somewhat ironic, too: this is the one track where Pownall's coloured-by-numbers approach turns to greyscale, although as the deep reds and bright yellows bleed away a greater level of emotional detail presents itself. It's very much the heart of this debut, its mid-album placement appropriate.
You Know closes the album with piano prettiness, Pownall's vocals pleasantly cracked - though the impression is they've grown croaky through enjoyment and indulgence rather than any tribulations in the area of love, despite an insistence that he's participating in a game he'll only lose. And as a newcomer to the pop game? The results of his efforts here remain TBC in a commercial sense, but evident parallels imply he should look forward to engaging with an audience well accustomed to this easy-going style of acoustic pop.