In partnership with Universal and Harbour Light Music, Michael Armstrong this week celebrates the release of his debut, self-titled album. If you take the partnerships he’s struck up as a marker as to his progress and standing in the industry, it’s very telling that Universal have seen enough from Armstrong to back him with their distribution service.

With that in mind, it comes as little surprise to learn that this is a pop album of fantastic quality. Well produced from top to bottom, everything from the recordings to the artwork and packaging has a professional sheen. It’s impressive for a debut release, as is the content. 12 original songs and two cover versions make for a running time of just under an hour, and each song has something to recommend it.

At first, the acoustic structures and sing-along nature of the pop on hand here lulls you into a false sense of predictability, making you think that this is well intentioned, pleasant stuff, but nothing you haven’t heard before. But then small details emerge which elevate the release.

Uncommon shifts in rhythm, unusual chord progressions and surprising lyrical left turns make this more than your usual songwriter’s pop album. Michael Armstrong comes to the industry later in life than some of his debut-album peers, and perhaps his added maturity has resulted in these unusual directions that keep things fresh. Either way, it’s a successful debut.