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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 26, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: New artist breaks genre boundaries in first release

"Chaos and the Calm"

James Bay

With his cool, rock ’n’ roll style and sincere sound, British singer-songwriter James Bay recently dropped his bold debut album, “Chaos and the Calm.” His musical compositions are quite impressive, and they are stunning in their simple production. Bay’s raspy vocals still manage to show strength despite their sparse quality, which is truly amazing. The singer ultimately creates a rock- and folk-influenced album that draws listeners in.

With enthusiastic guitar riffs and pounding drumbeats, the opening song, “Craving,” establishes the energy of the album. The 24-year-old’s evocative singing and brilliant rhythms create a great entrance to the album. The track “If you Ever Want to be in Love” is beat-driven in a similar way to “Craving,” but it further demonstrates Bay’s vocal range. The chorus shows off his use of falsetto, as the softness of his voice counters the previous raspiness in a way that creates balance in tone. While his voice is emotionally charged on many tracks, there is some subtle variety in tone that complements the album as a whole. The album strikes a nice balance between fast-paced and slow songs — Bay’s one-of-a-kind voice is able to adapt to many musical styles.

The acoustic ballads on Bay’s album give listeners the chance to hear the emotion in the singer’s raw voice since it isn’t masked by the heavier instruments. By using minimal instrumentation on tracks such as “Let it Go” and “Need the sun to Break,” Bay’s mellow and somber voice fills the songs’ empty spaces and leaves an intimate impression on the listener. His storytelling skills and honest lyrics within each individual song give the album a nice quality and set him apart from other artists.

Overall, Bay has played it safe with his debut but still manages to stand out in a genre heavily populated with new artists. With undeniably sleek vocals and heartfelt lyrics, Bay has put himself out there and is an artist to keep an eye on.