THERE is a lot to be said for being inarticulate. A well-placed "whoop", "doo-wop" or simple whistle can be the yeast that lifts a song and reminds us why we love music in the first place. These instants, when lyrics are insufficient to express the ecstasy of the moment and the music, work best in soul music, whose gospel genome could explain why speaking in tongues sounds so right.

Sadly in VV Brown's inarticulate moments on her 1960s-steeped début album, she sounds as if she isn't so much communing with holy spirits as with the spectre of boredom. Her plaintive "aow, aow, aow", which raises its lacklustre head on tracks such as Crazy Amazing and I Love You, is like someone who has been tortured for so long, they have lost the ability to express pain and the only response left is disinterested sarcasm.

When the London-based singer-songwriter opts for words, things do not get much better. She borrows liberally from the "no-shit Sherlock" school of songwriting. On Everybody, she wonders, wide-eyed, how "Isn't it funny how we're different but all the same". Hilarious. I Love You, whose pace never gets above the funereal, opens with a sports report: "Cycling down the boulevard/On our bikes, we pedal hard." And on Leave!, a Phil Spector homage, she adopts an annoying pronunciation tic to try to squeeze round words into square rhyming holes: "Done/Conversa-SHUN/Atten-SHUN/Affect-SHUN".

Brown does have her bright points though. Like Florence And The Machine and Little Boots, she also featured on the BBC Sounds poll of artists to watch out for this year. The 6ft singer has also landed a modelling contract, played Jools Holland and attracted the attention of Damon Albarn.

Travelling Like The Light has some tracks that leap out with nagging melody lines and a peppering of interesting ideas. Shark In The Water, the lead single, begins with a jaunty acoustic guitar before exploding in the chorus. Game Over tries to follow in the footsteps of Amerie, with a brass and beat-heavy opening burst. And the easy-going rockabilly rhythm of L.O.V.E. has its charms. But usually after the first 10 seconds, all of Brown's best ideas are used up, leaving behind a film of mediocrity that would not sound out of place on a boy-band album track.

Like Duffy and Amy Winehouse before her, the sound of the 1960s peppers the album. But Brown, who also produced it, forgoes the crackle and snap of those records. She doesn't have the conviction of her references. In trying to add an urban polish, it dulls any potential fizz and all we're left with is a lukewarm, plastic pop concoction. This album sadly does not soar at the speed of light; it plods.


David Ferrard Across The Troubled Wave (Alter Road)

WHEN he released the album Broken Sky last year, the Sunday Herald called David Ferrard "a one-man transatlantic session". The Scottish-American folk singer follows up with a collection of cover versions that's no less personal than his self-penned debut, as it puts his lineage literally on the line with a collection that brings together favourite songs from both sides of his cultural divide. Thus, the words of Robert Burns (The Slave's Lament) sit side by side with those of Stephen Collins Foster (Hard Times Come Again No More). It's no surprise to learn that Ferrard first heard some of the traditional songs here on recordings by Pete Seeger and Joan Baez - you could draw a direct line from their musical style and political conscience to his - but he makes his own distinct impression on them with a voice that's now richer in its lower register. The album was recorded in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and its producer, Josh Goforth, contributes beautiful arrangements and some mighty fine fiddle and banjo playing. Alan Morrison

Jón Þór Birgisson & Alex Somers Riceboy Sleeps (Parlophone)

JOn Þór Birgisson, aka Jónsi, is better known for his day job as emoter-in-chief with Icelandic post-rockers Sigur Rós, whose overwrought yet frequently exquisite epics are beloved of Madonna and Metallica. For the last couple of years, however, he's also been working on art-and-sound projects with his partner (in life and in work) Alex Somers, and Riceboy Sleeps is their first full-length musical creation: an album of acoustic instrumental compositions that they've reshaped electronically. Ethereal, other-worldly and occasionally heart-stoppingly lovely: such adjectives will come as no surprise to anyone who knows Birgisson's other band, but the main emotion is loss. You quickly realise how vital Sigur Rós's propulsive rhythms are to their emotional power, and without them Riceboy Sleeps drifts into lush but lightweight background ambience. Choirs intone, string quartets lament and laptops sputter but it isn't enough: Riceboy Sleeps reaches for the stars but never quite gets off the ground. Simon Stuart

Ebony Bones! Bone Of My Bones (Sunday Best)

THE clue is in the exclamation mark. Under the stage name of Ebony Bones!, former TV soap star Ebony Thomas (Five's Family Affairs, in case you're wondering) transforms into a sharp-tongued singer, whose exuberantly self-produced debut album is a riot of rock-meets-grime-meets-rap-meets-pop. Song titles like I'm Ur Future X Wife and lyrics such as "So you're busy, well I'm busy too / Shagging someone else to get over you" (from Guess We'll Always Have NY) make her sound like Kate Nash put through an abrasive tumble-dryer. But there's a serious side to her too: Story Of St.Ockwell touches on the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes and In G.O.D. We Trust (Gold, Oil & Drugs) says enough with its rhymes alone ("segregation ... tribulation ... fabrication ... intimidation ... blaming immigration..."). Sometimes her battle shrieks and hefty drumming accompaniment bring to mind Adam And The Ants, Bow Wow Wow and John Lydon in his Public Image days - inventive UK post-punk, brought bang up to date. Alan Morrison