Hats off to James Bay. His 2015 debut, which went straight to number one, set expectations at an all-time high for the follow-up. ‘Electric Light’, however, seems to represent something else entirely. AlI over the place stylistically, Bay has weaved together a variety of extravagant differences. But is it too much chaos and not enough calm?
From the indie-rock anthem ‘Pink Lemonade’ to the pastiche ‘In My Head’, Bay ditches the bluesy apparel for ruthlessly efficient pop. Hip-hop style spoken-word skits make up the interludes, while he explores a diverse array of techniques and sounds; from the overall ambient whir of ‘Wild Love’, to the gospel float of ‘Us’. Fuzzy-toned ‘Sugar Drunk High’ introduces a Prince-like twist and ‘Fade Out’ has the former dream-woozy R&B arrangements. The house-funk of ‘Wasted On Each Other’ quite simply bangs, with its foot-stomping pop elements.
Oozing with confidence, ‘Wanderlust’ reeks of Fleetwood Mac, as the trippy, drawling lyrical delivery and sweet twang of the guitar recalls legendary tracks ‘Everywhere’ and ‘Dreams’. Laced with a swaggering, velvety guitar line on the opening of ‘I Found You’, Bay melts into a lolling, gospel-infused blues feel. Similarly, ‘Stand Up’ boasts distorted vocals and moments that truly take your breath away. ‘Just For Tonight’ adopts themes of escapism but almost feels too similar to ‘Hold Back The River’ — nevertheless still providing a catchy chorus.
While producer Paul Epworth’s contribution is accomplished, adding a dynamism that maintains our attention throughout, the record seems to lack an underlying theme. Bay has been a bit too clever for his own good, and on ‘Electric Light' fails to latch onto a identity that makes him truly unique. Perhaps that’s the catch; from now on he can pretty much do whatever he wants and still be James Bay. Post-hat or not.
Words: Lauren McDermott
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