If there was a futures market in musicians, Emma Dean’s a commodity you’d want to buy long. A Queensland Conservatorium alumnus (the institution that brought you Kate Miler-Heidke, Megan Washington and Katie Noonan, proof you can’t have too much HECS in pop) now resident in Sydney, Dean has recently released her second album, Dr Dream And The Imaginary Pop-Cabaret.

It’s a satisfying serve of warmth, humour and melancholy splashed over a little rock, served up oddball, and well worth a taste. And it’s not just your unknown occasional Crikey correspondent saying so — Dean’s recently been named in the New York Post’s annual list of next big things, as one of 10 Artists to Know in 2011.

A singer-songwriter out of the Tori Amos/Alanis Morisette/Kate Bush corner of existence, Dean’s lyrical skills and knack for melody are backed up by muscular-yet-nimble pipes and gloriously percussive piano riffing. The highlights on the album are many, from the angsty romp of Sincerely Fearful to the sombre Something They Can Hold, which now holds down third place in my cheery list of Best Songs About Suicide’ (shaded only by Crowded House’s Hole in the River and Blink 182’s Adam’s Song, if you’re asking).

Other notable tracks include Thunder, and the infectious-as-ebola Sharks (In My Pool), a dangerously enjoyable rockalong — dangerous, in that it frequently finds me air drumming, often when I should be concentrating on other things, such as negotiating a right-hand turn across double lanes in blinding rain. On a bicycle. (You’d think I’d know better, having written off my mother’s 1991 Nissan Pintarra while holding down the backbeat to Soundgarden’s Rusty Cage, instead of holding on to the steering wheel.)

The live show that goes along with this album is also something to behold, with Dean and band joined on stage by three costumed performers who clown around bringing comical life to the artist’s lyrical imagery. It’s a bold experiment with that perilous stuff, interpretive dance, that all involved pull off — definitely something to laugh with, not at.

Make the investment and spend the evening acquainting yourself with a talent whose stock is on the rise.

The details: The Pop-Cabaret tour’s currently wending its away around the country, and the album’s available on iTunes, or through the artist’s website.