2009 and 2010 were really big years for artists who swung towards the rock/country/soul route like Gavin DeGraw and John Mayer. Generally formulaic, but undeniably infectious, the love ballads brought to us by the most angelic voices once dominated everyone’s music library. We seem to be lacking that nowadays. When we aren’t inundated with synthesized drumbeats and artificial vocal mixes, we are semi-plagued with two-sentence repetitive chorus and rhymes. Who’s to say that’s a bad thing, though? I’ve just always been one for mixing it up.

British recording artist, James Bay, and his new full-length record, entitled Chaos And The Calm, shows up to champion that exact rock/country/soul aesthetic. Not shying away from blues and the indisputable funk, these twelve tracks showcase the perfect combination of the loveliest slow jams and groovy guitar riffs – a millennial, more heavy engineering-oriented take on early-era Bon Iver, one could argue.

One of his most popular songs, charting well in the UK upon its release, is entitled “Hold Back The River.” The track makes for a great number two. It comes to us In all its simplicity and gospel choir-like foundation, it’s pretty difficult to not appreciate.

The same can be said for introductory track, “Craving,” “Best Fake Smile,” and one of the last couple of tracks, “Collide.” These are among the very few in the record that maintain a continuously remain in their upbeat elements, making for a very little but ample amount of diversity and momentum.

“Let It Go” offers more of the somber and the sad that were hinted at prior. This song is a lot more similar to majority of the tracks – bare and temporarily divested of the dominant funk we get from the lead singles. The most important track in this collection, I would say, is “If You Ever Want To Be In Love.” Apart from the closer, which deserves a paragraph on its own, this song appeals to all right from the initial piano introduction up until the very last Springsteen-esque notes.

Strongly resonant of Jason Mraz’s “A Beautiful Mess” (with a matching mini-drum roll pickup,) is “Move Together,” CATC’s go-to slow dance tune. Bay’s smooth vocals and the lines: “Before you go, turn around, let me hold you. Let me sit in the dark of the morning” come around to shove the slightly distraught lyrical underpinnings.

“Incomplete,” whose lyrics are absolutely beautiful, is the most fitting for the closing track. The heartstring-tugging lyrics infused with a listener’s own dose of nostalgia result in quite the emotional final ride. “Gone is the emptiness / We just take what’s best and we move on /  All of the heart gets left /  I should’ve guessed.”

Although not game-changing in most regard, James Bay, along with other quickly-on-the-rise artists like Hozier, are bringing us back to a few years ago by way of their music brimming with romance and heartbreak.

(by Dana Reandelar)

Written by Catherine Powell

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