Like Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson, this Surrey singer/guitarist makes laidback amiability his calling card, and has thereby reaped two of the most ignorable No 1 albums of recent years. Studio Zoo is a lesson in why Faulkner needs to start playing against type; rather than swaddling every song in layers of delicately picked guitar, he should have found his inner wildebeest and let it roar. There's plenty of disquiet in the lyrics – Faulkner is forever fretting and apologising for his very existence, to the point of telling his girlfriend, on At the Seams: "As if your life wasn't hard enough, you chose me." Had he stopped burying the emotions under passive-aggressive sweetness and let his voice ratchet up a few notches, this could have been an interesting album. The place to start would have been the aptly titled opener, Where to Start, in which José Gonzálezish dream-pop strumming damps down the frustration of romantic disappointment. "I'm tired of love, don't need nobody," he murmurs. Fine, now say it like you mean it.
Caroline Sullivan writes about rock and pop for the Guardian