James Blunt may be one of the most successful British male artists of the last 10 years but he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves for it. Often dismissed by music critics, Blunt fortunately has a solid enough fanbase that supports his every move. After the huge success of debut album Back To Bedlam which was released in 2004 and follow-up All The Lost Souls in 2007, Blunt experienced a dip in commercial success with his third album Some Kind of Trouble in 2010. The success of new album Moon Landing is looking more assured though with lead single Bonfire Heart having already charted in the UK Top 10 giving Blunt his best-charting single since 2007 hit 1973.
The majority of Moon Landing was produced by Tom Rothrock, who produced Blunt’s debut album Back to Bedlam. Whilst writing for the record, Blunt worked with Steve Robson, Claude Kelly, Steve Mac and Ryan Tedder to name a few, with Tedder producing and co-writing lead single Bonfire Heart. That track is something a little different for Blunt giving him a more stripped-back and folky sound than we’ve heard before. Obviously it’s a sound that suits him well with radio taking to the track and its impressive chart performance.
Moon Landing opens with the sound of a motorbike whizzing by before a gentle piano melody leads into first track Face The Sun. The low-key start to the record feels intentional with Blunt grabbing your attention with his simplicity and his distinctive quavering vocal. Some critics will have a field day pulling apart the lyrics but we found them genuinely moving as Blunt tells a lover that their relationship is over and they should just move on. Halfway through the track drums and electric guitar kick in transforming the track and giving it an epic sound you simply don’t expect.
Now he’s grabbed our attention, what else has Mr Blunt got up his sleeve? After a few listens through the record it seems quite a lot actually. Whilst the album is undoubtedly a James Blunt record, it sees him exploring his musical vocabulary and experimenting with sounds we’ve not heard from him before. One of the early standouts is Satellites which marries pop sensibilities with singer-songwriter traits for one of the catchiest tracks on the record. Piano ballad Miss America is an emotive moment as Blunt pays tribute to the late great Whitney Houston. Musically the song reminds us a little of Wisemen but lyrically it couldn’t be more different.
On the mid-tempo Always Hate Me Blunt sings, ‘I never meant to hurt you, it’s just something I do, I guess it’s not a good excuse, and she will always hate me, no matter what I say.’ Obviously the song is about a relationship gone south but is it also Blunt commenting on his womanising ways which were well-documented in Peter Hardy’s 2011 book Different Country, Same State: On the Road with James Blunt? The autobiographical lyrics continue on The Only One which finds Blunt appealing to a lover begging for forgiveness. Come on Blunty, don’t be too hard on yourself; we all make mistakes!
One of the strongest songs on the record is the shimmering guitar melody of Bones. The slow building track features confessional lyrics as it builds into an explosive chorus. The track definitely has a commercial edge so don’t be too surprised if it is chosen as a single in the near future. Postcards sees Blunt borrowing a bit of Jack Johnson’s sunshine, and his ukulele, and is a surprising chirpy moment from the often introspective singer.
Moon Landing is an album with many layers and sounds. It’s definitely Blunt’s most musically diverse release to date and he has a renewed confidence that was perhaps not as evident on his last album. We don’t care what anyone says about James Blunt, we think he’s a fantastic talent and he’s one of the few male artists in the UK that pours his heart into his lyrics. Moon Landing is a solid record and one that we’ll be listening to a lot in the coming months. Whilst other critics will no doubt find some way to bash the record, we’re going to be putting it into our Top 10 albums of the year.