24-year-old James Bay has garnered a lot of buzz ahead of the release of his debut album Chaos and the Calm. Earlier this year he followed in the footsteps of Adele and Sam Smith by collecting the Critics’ Choice award at the BRIT Awards. Collecting that award has led to him building a large fanbase ahead of his debut album but also sharpened the claws of the critics ready to pull him down before he’s really got started. Chaos and the Calm arrives following the success of four EPs and recent Top 10 single Hold Back The River.
Chaos and the Calm is at heart a singer-songwriter record that is influenced by rock, blues and folk. Hit single Hold Back The River is one of the more chart-friendly songs on the record with its sing-a-long chorus and it does the job it’s supposed to; getting people interested in Bay’s album. The rocky Craving opens the album on an uptempo note and it’s a song that’s sure to be a standout during his live shows.
Elsewhere on the record Bay lets his voice loose on the punchy Best Fake Smile, keeps things simple on the stunning bluesy feel of Move Together, and packs a strong melody into the jerky rhythms of When We Were On Fire. The album closes with the emotional punch of Incomplete as Bay’s husky tones soar over the tingling guitar melodies.
The highlight on the album is Let It Go. The gorgeous ballad was released as the lead single from the album but it only managed to peak at 62. Now with the buzz around Bay and the fact that the song has been used in a variety of US shows such as The Vampire Diaries, we hope it gets a re-release. To our ear this is his Someone Like You or Stay With Me and it deserves to be massive.
Chaos and the Calm is an album that will sell by the bucketload. Whilst he may not be reinventing the wheel, Bay does add his own stamp to his radio-friendly brand of pop-rock. His voice is his strongest asset and in the future we expect he may go down a less mainstream route. For the moment though this is a solid start that is endlessly listenable and hugely enjoyable.