★★★★☆

In the post-fact world we now reside in, it feels hard to approach anything with real sincerity, much less sing in a voice free from irony.

For that reason, Tom Stephens’ What Lies In The Difference proves to be an exceptional record in all senses of the word: as a debut album it is startlingly self-contained and assured, but as a passionate, strikingly pure record, it stands apart from the crowd.

Songs are admirably workmanlike – Stephens has a gimmick-free aesthetic that means his tunes are full of pleasures that sometimes only reveal themselves on third or fourth listen. ‘Any Less Of A Man’, for example, has a kind of stately grace about it, and it never insists, only suggests.

Better still, nothing about the record is hesitant, or implies that Stephens is anything less than a fully-realised singer-songwriter. What Lies In The Difference isn’t a musical CV, but instead has a thrilling, slow-burning power all of its own.

What Lies In The Difference has its eyes open wide and its head clear. It demands your attention.

Tom StephensWhat Lies In The Differenceis released independently and out now.