When brand new music catches you off guard and hits you where it hurts, there’s no better feeling. Johnny Sands has been a boy about this town for years. Good singer, good songs, great lad. That’s all about to change, though. Let us introduce you to an artist coming of age with a soulful new sound of right now. By Alan O’Hare.

Johnny Sands? He’s the cat with or without the hat always hugging an acoustic guitar and tugging on that troubadour tousle. Or so we thought. With his debut album, ‘Films’, about to drop, the open-mic king of Ropewalks is set to deliver a startling work of originality.

We’re talking about modern sounds in mood and melody with mesmerising piano figures and mournful falsetto to the fore. Sands has found the sweet spot and crafted a record brimful of confidence, charm and cerebral cool. Its first two songs, both radio-playlisted singles, meander in on tantalising tempos and sound like, say, Air on a reverb-drenched early evening stroll around Paris.

It’s track four, ‘Dice Man’, before we get a glimpse of the Neil Young-esque ‘ditch trilogy’ atmosphere that the ex-model has been known for. It’s ace, but only as a breather from the taut and tight tunes that surround it – like the gorgeous ‘Naked Lunch, all understated riffs and desperate harmony, and the cinematic ‘The Letter’, which shifts between an electro throb and harmonic haze. “I stood in line and I stood in hope,” runs a hook in the latter and it’s devastating.

Sands has never been this singer before. Sure, all artists try every one of their multiple selves out as they develop and grow that little bit older, but this record articulates the artist as is now. ‘The Beautiful Wild’, an instrumental vignette, is another stand-out that will break your heart and you can imagine the credits running on the latest big budget HBO drama as the stately piano and electric guitar flourishes finance the pay off of a character’s death.

Most of ‘Films’ sounds like white sheets look when blowing in a widescreen breeze and the production is spotless. The drum machines play notes, not beats, and more and more colours appear each time you listen through headphones. A little one-paced? Perhaps… but the best records always invite you to spend some time with them and ask for a little something in return.

Johnny Sands isn’t a man out of time, but time is running out for the creation of work like this.

‘Films’, by Johnny Sands, will be released on Baltic Records, August 12th 2016

Pic courtesy Baltic Records