Julian Casablancas (Rough Trade)

It’s been nearly four years since The Strokes’ last album was a commercial disappointment. With the pop business more ephemeral than ever, the world hasn’t exactly been clamouring for their singer to make a solo album.  The world, though, might want to cock an ear in its direction. The departure from his day job doesn’t feel that great at first, opener Out Of The Blue plainly cut from a Strokes cloth. But then, aided by higher-than-usual melodies that suit his vox, Casablancas starts to stretch his legs, and things get more interesting.

11th Dimension borrows effectively from New Order; River Of Brake Lights goes glitchy in places; and Ludlow St has a crack at country. Only the limp soul of 4 Chords Of The Apocalypse bores.

The only problem with Phrazes … is that too much of it is three-and-a-half-minute songs dragged out nearer to five. Still, it’s a small quibble about one of the year’s more pleasant pop surprises.