James Bay sounds like he knows what he’s doing. At 24, Chaos and the Calm is his first album even though he sounds like someone who’s been writing, recording and performing for much longer. His voice packs a punch, effortlessly I might add. His guitarwork is prominently on display throughout the record, never taking control of a song but always sharing the stage with his words. He sounds seasoned, practiced, experienced, and it’s one of the first qualities to jump out.
Beyond that, there isn’t much else to grab onto. From the recordings themselves, little stands out. The record lacks that one single element that would make his sound stand apart from the rest, which is unfortunate because lyrically, he makes an impact, and he has the ability and potential to outdo his colleagues if given the opportunity.
Throughout the record, James sings of living situations and a relationship turning sour. On the opening track Craving, he sings of leaving a small town to avoid monotony with a desire to feel something, whether good or bad. For anyone who grew up in a small town (me), it’s relatable and striking. He touches back on it again on Get Out While You Can, another song about the need to escape.
Let It Go, an album highlight, is knowing when to end a relationship and move on. In the song, he sings “When we’re becoming something else, I think it’s time to walk away,” acknowledging that things aren’t as they used to be. But James isn’t so quick to give up. When We Were On Fire is about wanting to reclaim what was had before. On Move Together, he emphasizes the importance of having a moment together with the line “we didn’t get tonight, don’t have tomorrow” even if it’s argue instead of sleep, while on Collide he affirms that he would “rather fight with you all night/than never have you in my life.”
He has the makings of an impressive musician with a long and bright future, but this record doesn’t do him justice. The disconnect between it and what he could be is surprisingly disappointing. Like the themes present throughout, James is in need of change. A change of scenery, a change in his relationship, but also something that makes him stand out and better emphasize his abilities. There’s more to him than what is provided so far. I’m putting him on the watch-wait-see list for now.
2. Hold Back The River
3. Let It Go
4. If You Ever Want To Be In Love
5. Best Fake Smile
6. When We Were On Fire
7. Move Together
10. Get Out While You Can
11. Need The Sun To Break