Friday, 20 March 2015

Spotlight: James Bay (20/03/15)

James Bay is a 24 year old singer/songwriter and guitarist from Hitchin, UK. He's already gained a great reputation through stints at Communion's monthly night at Notting Hill Arts Club in London and a successful run of support slots with Tom Odell, John Newman and Kodaline. This year, he received Brit Award's 'Critics Choice' Award and came second in BBC's Sound of 2015, with his debut studio album 'Chaos and the Calm' being released on Monday 23rd March (2015), James has got a big and exciting year ahead of him! 

'Chaos and the Calm' Review:

I think since the release date was announced, I’ve been looking forward to what James Bay’s debut album had to offer. I am far from disappointed. He manages to create an eclectic sound across the album, with hints of folk, rock, country and pop, he makes his own unique sound seem effortless.

‘Chaos and the Calm’ opens with ‘Craving’ and goes straight in, to a strong and upbeat tone, which continues throughout the song. Add in the story-like lyrics, that pick up on simple things in life, there’s a great driving song for the Summer.
Next on the album is James’ Top 10 single, ‘Hold Back The River’, it has peaked at #8 in the UK Singles Chart and understandably so. The intro to the song is stunning, and the track grows and builds gradually, with a catchy chorus, perfect for singing along to and finishing as it started with stunning guitar.

‘Let It Go’, is another song on the album that highlights Bay’s beautifully melodic guitar playing, a stripped back track, focusing solely on James’ vocals, honest lyrics and guitar, underlined with a steady beat.
After that comes another catchy and upbeat track, ‘If You Ever Want To Be In Love’, the piano that opens the song and is played throughout the track is reminiscent of Tom Odell, but James’ vocals, as well as the beat and guitar allow for it to step away from that comparison and into a unique, almost country based song, I can imagine this one being great live with the audience singing along.
‘Best Fake Smile’ is a rockier and toe-tapping track, the guitar solo in the middle section stands out to me, this is definitely one more song with a summer vibe to it and one that James’ definitely puts his all into and yet again I’m sure would be great to witness live, with claps included, the atmosphere would be brilliant.

‘When We Were On Fire’ starts with a funky tone to it and grows into a song with elements of rock and country music in it. The piano section with gospel-like vocals and harmonies are highlighted in this track then cutting out to just James and his guitar again, and building back into the catchy full-produced track.
Some of the tracks on the album, such as ‘Move Together’ and ‘Scars’ go back to James’ roots of acoustic music and early open mic nights, they also allow the listener to pick up on James’ smooth vocals, honest lyrics and storytelling ways through his music. They build at times to present a powerful but still subtle tone to the tracks, which I love.

The ending of ‘Scars’ leads well into the notable track ‘Collide’, the guitars and drums battle together to create one of my favourite upbeat songs on the album, with a catchy bass hook, it’s a track you can turn up loud, dance along to, clap along to and just throw yourself into the song.
‘Get Out While You Can’ is another memorable track, that could get stuck in your head, almost too easily - never a bad thing!) I feel like this song could have appeared on Kings of Leon’s ‘Only By The Night’ album, which is possibly the result of production from Jacquire King – again, not a bad thing and it still stands out as an original sound with his vocals standing out in this song.

Another mellow track from the album is ‘Need The Sun To Break’, the lyrics stand out to me in this one, highlighted by the layered vocals, there is a very honest tone to them.
The album comes to a close with ‘Incomplete’, a final subtle but powerful track, slowly growing with strong vocals highlighting Bay’s range and even though he’s completing the album, the song seems to have an incomplete feel to it, with the lyrics and atmospheric feel to it. I had goose bumps listening to this song and can only imagine how amazing this would be live (until I go to see him on tour!) with choral harmonies at times and finishing when it almost feels like it shouldn’t yet be done, leaving a cliffhanger ready for a second album.

‘Chaos and the Calm’ is a strong debut, there isn’t one weak song out of all 12 tracks and I commend his songwriting ability highly. No two songs are the same, each has it’s own right to stand out. You can hear the outpour of feelings, thoughts and fears of an artist in transition, mixing the honest lyrics, with eclectic influence of genres and the musicality of James, this makes the perfect album to listen to from beginning to end.

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