Bic Runga Beautiful Collision

New Zealand's biggest star has taken three years to create the follow-up to her debut Drive. It was time well spent, as this cigar smokin' Kiwi has left no gaps in a perfect album. Runga's thoughtful approach to songwriting matches the understated accompaniment - there's lots going on but you have to listen to realise it - with delicately embroidered melodies and a lyrical sense well beyond her 26 years. Touches of Beth Gibbons and even Billy Holiday grace her voice while her delivery recalls Sinead - serene on the surface with the promise of a tsunami brewing underneath. Self-produced and recorded between New Zealand and the States, Beautiful Collision has hints that it may not be the work of a mere mortal. (Columbia)