(Merge Records, out Fri 22 Mar 2019)

Power pop in the right hands can be an art form. Led by guitar hero Mary Timony, Ex Hex are influenced by breezy US college radio, as much as Sonic Youth and Dick Dale, and it shows. Thankfully, they have the songwriting chops to back it up.

This new album could easily fall into parody, were there not so much affection there. So Cosmic Cave is surf pop with the sun going down, and the tide coming out. It’s reminiscent of days when nothing much is happening in a teenage film – like in Richard Linklater’s classic Dazed and Confused, when the beer keg runs dry, the characters realise that their pursuit of the party is maybe starting to ring a little hollow, and start seeking something more meaningful.

Medley has an understated, late night kind of melancholy, and Diamond Drive‘s girl group garage band influences are seeped into an insouciant moment which is never too self -conscious or mannered to grate.

The incredibly pretty but fuzzy Talk To Me states, “The universe is cruel and nature will make you a fool”, but then makes (not unreasonable) demands of her lover, to find where they both stand. It’s this need to communicate in an increasingly frenetic city, where life is cheap, that propels this rather fine album. Most city dwellers will surely relate.

It may not reinvent American pop, then, but it’s a small delight, caught in the right mood.