James Bay • Chaos And The Calm • Republic • US Release Date: March 23, 2015
England continues to be a hotbed for talent making its way stateside. Deep-voiced singer/songwriter George Ezra was one of the first newbies to garner attention in 2015 with his dynamic LP Wanted On Voyage. Now Ezra is joined by another youthful standout, James Bay, who delivers a polished, enjoyable debut with Chaos And The Calm. Running 12 tracks deep, Chaos And The Calm shows the 24-year old singer/songwriter’s immense musical potential.
Chaos And The Calm gets off to an electrifying start with a fantastic opening trio. The spirited “Craving” sets the tone, with Bay showing vocal grit, urgency, and a dab of falsetto. He both rocks, yet adds a dash of soul for good measure. The temperature rises higher on the fabulous “Hold Back The River,” easily among the set’s main attractions. Well-written and heartfelt in its overall performance, Bay’s music authenticity is unquestionable as he urges memorably, “Hold back the river, let me look in your eyes,” a sensational, poetic metaphor.
“Let It Go” closes the thrilling trio, finding Bay opting for more sensitive vocals on the verses and contrasting with more grit and raw emotion on the chorus. Both extremes of Bay are equally compelling. “If You Ever Want To Be In Love” continues to exhibit Bay’s incredible musicianship, not missing a beat. Soulful and bluesy, yet fueled in the spirit of rock and roll, the eclectic blend is certainly a great look – or rather superb sound! It’s followed with the head nodding, up-tempo “Best Fake Smile,” an instant homerun thanks to a signature guitar riff and playful, biting vocals from Bay.
“When We Were On Fire” maintains the flame for sure, while “Move Together” timely slackens the pace and prevents the mere notion of predictability. Expectedly, “Move Together” is “simply beautiful,” definitely goose bump worthy. From “moving together,” Bay transitions to “Scars,” a song where pacing is key and Bay gradually allows it to percolate. Patience pays off, not to mention the blend of acoustic and electric guitars and a dash of organ to establish a truly ‘roots-driven’ sound.
“Collide” features some fine lyrical moments, led by the honest “Oh you left a hole in me / but I don’t cut easily,” eventually wrapped up with “think it’s time to open up / and I don’t mean bleed.” “Get Out While You Can” benefits from its all around energy, best harnessed during an epic, old school rock-n-roll chorus. “Get Out While You Can” might’ve been born in 2015, but it definitely hearkens back to the late 60s and 70s. Who would want to “get out” when the music is this hot? Bay concludes Chaos And The Calm with “Need The Sun To Break” and “Incomplete,” both enjoyable, consistent cuts without being game changers per se.
All in all, Chaos And The Calm is nothing short of terrific. When one doubts if real, authentic music still thrives in modern times, well James Bay and his debut LP answer that convincingly. Ladies and gentlemen simply put, another terrific singer/songwriter has joined to fold. All hail James Bay.
Favorites: “Craving,” “Hold Back The River,” “Let It Go,” “Best Fake Smile”