Loss, Mull Historical Society's first album, was and still is a great record - full of quirky, melodic pop and intelligent, witty lyrics. It held out a great deal of promise and made a statement - that this was what pop music was capable of if people would only have a bit of ambition for it. Sadly, Colin Macintyre's follow-up was less but the same, never once scaling the heights of his debut and suggesting MHS would be a one-album wonder. So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I purchased This is Hope - and I am both surprised and delighted to be able to report it is excellent, a real contender for album of the year alongside artists like The Streets - although musically a long way away. Basically, the album is an intro and 11 perfectly crafted but quirky pop-songs. Macintyre's musical ear means instrumentation is always interesting without damaging the melodic structure and the album retains the listener's attention even when in it's (few) moments of mediocrity as a result of this. So to the songs themselves: PECULIAR - a little gem of a pop-song that alternates between Squeeze style smoothness and XTC spike. HOW 'BOUT I LOVE YOU MORE - the first single and ironically the weakest track on the album. OK mid-tempo pop. TREESCAVENGERS - The first slow song and one of a handful deeply reminiscent of tracks like Barcode Bypass and Strangeways on the debut album. Complex multi-layered pop. THIS IS THE HEBRIDES - Lyrically the most savage track on the album, this is another complex mid-tempo number. TOBERMORY ZOO - The title sounds like it should be a kid's tv show and the song almost sounds like it could be the theme tune. Jaunty, bouncing pop just the right side of simple with a great coda. Great fun. DEATH OF A SCIENTIST - The centre piece of the album. Alternatively rising and falling in volume and building to another great coda. Dark pop power balladry - not something you hear much of today with some great prog keyboards. YOUR LOVE, MY GAIN - Another ballad, piano based this time. Perhaps positioned wrongly on the album but a pretty song nonetheless. CASANOVA AT THE WEEKEND - Another song that could have been on the first album. Reminiscent of Animal Cannabus, this is a jaunty pop song that also sounds a bit like the Divine Comedy circa - funnily enough - Casanova. MY FRIEND THE ADDICT - Another dark ballad. LEN - Great 60s influenced pop song, with Memphis style strings. IN THE NEXT LIFE - Funnily, this reminds me of The Streets in that at first it appears so childlike and naive in its construction you wonder how a professional artist had the temerity to record it. By the end, as the music layers build and the song morphs into something quite different, you realise it's genius and it was only your own pre-conceptions that caused the initial discontent. BTW if anyone has Mike Oldfield's Amarok, the Colin MacIntyre's Gran talking on the end of this track is as well placed and as appropriate here as the Margaret Thatcher impersonation talkover at the end of that record. Overall - a fantastic pop record, full of contrasts between light and dark, jaunty and sad and simplicity and complexity - ambitious, interesting and intriguing, and one of my records of the year. Buy it!