May 14, 2018 James Bay – Electric Light (Album Review)
On Friday, May 18, 2018, James Bay returns with Electric Light – thanks to Republic Records – a genre-crossing collection of spirited rocking Soul, Pop, and R&B.
Three-time Grammy Award-nominated and BRIT Award-winning Singer-Songwriter James Bay first came to the world’s attention in 2015 with his multiplatinum-selling debut, Chaos and the Calm. Hit singles such as “Hold Back The River” and “Let It Go” propelled Bay’s career straight to the top of the charts, earning the British Vocalist/Guitarist nominations for “Best Rock Album,” “Best Rock Song,” and “Best New Artist” at the 2016 Grammy Awards. Selling nearly 3.5 millions albums globally and with 2.7 billion streams worldwide, Bay has parlayed these successes into sold-out shows across the globe, festival performances, and even has his own limited edition, signature guitar model with Epiphone.
So, what is next for Bay? Another album, of course. Enter Electric Light, a 14-song collection co-written and co-produced by Bay himself and longtime friend and collaborator Jon Green (5 Seconds of Summer, Tor Miller). Ultimately, the pair would bring in Paul Epworth (Adele, Florence + the Machine) to add final production elements to the record. The end result is a collection of material that is decidedly diverse, running the gamut across genres while consistently speaking of the trials and tribulations of finding love in our chaotic, modern world.
Electric Light begins with a .58 second intro that occurs outside a club on any night in any busy city, sounding like a snippet from a popular TV series or film. This introduces the album’s first proper track, “Wasted On Each Other,” a sensual jam that is catchy yet gritty; a bluesy sashay in honor of getting high on the one you lust. Then, the quick-stepping pace of the Electro-Pop, 1980s saturated “Pink Lemonade” sounds like the score to the next Molly Ringwald goes to detention in a pink frock flick.
The collection continues with heavy electronic embellishments on the sassy soul of “Wild Love,” an epic decree of care-free romance, while the piano-anchored ballad-esque “Us” is a soulful jaunt that highlights Bay’s upper vocal register as he searches for something (or someone) to believe in. He goes for rambunctious joy and cacophonous accoutrements on “In My Head,” an over-inflated attempt at shiny happiness before the album hits its middle-ground, “Interlude.”
Seemingly picking up where the “Intro” began, “Interlude” presents a continuation of the story wherein a car engine revs, someone drives off, a woman whispers, and a rendezvous begins. This launches Bay into the nostalgic jam session of “Just For Tonight” which feels born of simpler times; a 1970s-inspired rocking session with some Folk artistry. While he goes a little deeper for the bluesy dip into the clap-along of “Wanderlust,” follower “I Found You” dips into a bass-heavy, soulful atmosphere of candid confessionals that profess, despite any off-kilter impacts to his life’s schedule, none of it means a thing now once you find The One.
Next, there is an Indie rocking nature to the grungy verses of “Sugar Drunk High,” with saccharine sweet references embedded throughout its groovy choruses. The experimentation continues with Hip-Hop worthy vocal effects and atmospheric beats permeating the core of “Stand Up,” a hazy little electronic dream that ultimately builds toward the Heavens. In fact, there is an attempted sensual groove to R&B “Fade Out” before the album comes to a climactic close with the beautiful piano ballad “Slide,” wrapping up the collection on a bittersweet, poignant note.
On Electric Light, James Bay slides between Sam Smith’s soul and Bruno Mars’ delectable beats, but never quite reaches the heights of these other two stellar talents. There are highlights (“Wasted On Each Other,” “Us,” “Slide”) and low spots (“Wild Love,” “In My Head,” “Sugar Drunk High”) throughout, but the one thing that can be said for James Bay is that he never grows complacent. Here, he frequently mixes up sounds to weave a collection of stories that are, admittedly, largely about the trials and tribulations of finding love, but no two tracks ever sound identical and there is something to be said for that. Next time around, perhaps that diversity might find its way into the lyrical content? For these reasons, CrypticRock give James Bay’s Electric Light 3.5 of 5 stars.