The Agency have pulled a nice end of year treat out of the bag with their debut album For The Brave And Troubled. The music is almost universally slow paced, considered and beautifully structured, the lyrics transpose fanciful imagery onto a bleak canvas of realism. From the outset, the sprawling “The Assassin, The Bureaucrat or the Stranger”, they conjure up a laid back sound which is tinged with a lingering menace. The sparing less-is-more approach gives the clean guitar, bass, drums and piano room to breathe and allows singer Steven K Driver’s lyrics time to fully resonate, never more so than on “Wolfman” which sticks some grizzly subject matter onto a slumbersome backdrop to blackly humorous effect. Add to that the Wizard of Oz inspired “Red Heels”, and the dreamy “The Muse”, and the album has the makings of a cult classic. Things go into even darker and equally interesting territory on the all too brief interlude “Noir”, which is quickly followed up by one of the album’s highlights “She May Meet A Talk Dark Stranger”, seemingly over-stuffed with lyrics, the track’s neat chord structure and haunting backing vocals are pitch perfect. Their unique knack of packing (what should be) far too many lyrics into each line of verse continues on the rare up-tempo “Carnivale”, where there’s also a satisfying Grandaddy-esque keyboard interlude. It’s not a perfect album by any means and towards the end of the record tracks like “The Hunt” can drag ever so slightly but you get the feeling that this is a band that are really hitting their stride, 2013 could well be their year.