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December 2018 / January 2019
Review

James Bay - Electric Light

An album that spotlights raw, physical emotions with confidence.
James Bay - Electric Light
Published: 11:39 am, May 15, 2018
An album that spotlights raw, physical emotions with confidence.

Label: Republic Records
Released: 18th May 2018
Rating: ★★★★

It’s the spring of 2015, a Hertfordshire lad in a fedora, armed with a guitar, debuts at Number One with ‘Chaos And The Calm’, a record that showcases what was to become a signature brand of saccharine, soul-driven pop.

Three years on, and James Bay is about to drop a second record set to completely transform his already powerful position. He’s binned that goddamn hat, donned a short, messy quiff and armed himself confidently in sparkles a la pop-defining legend, Prince.

If ‘Chaos And The Calm’ was love, ‘Electric Light’ is sex. It’s not a messy one night stand, though; you’d be a fool to think Bay was going to completely lose his romanticism.

While his debut was a compilation of passionate acoustic works, Bay 2.0 flaunts electronic R&B, spacey synth and chunky alt-pop guitar riffs fit for arena sell-outs. These tracks are interspersed with the sound that made him so popular in the first place, and rightly so. A dash of piano, bluesy guitar lines and gospel backings (‘Us’, ‘Just For Tonight’, ‘Slide’), ‘Electric Light’ is versatile artistry, tackling a common theme which is so often ignored of its complexities within pop music.

Stand-outs come in the form of single ‘Pink Lemonade’ - an 80s-style extravaganza of transistor guitars and sleek surf-rocky pop - and opener ‘Wasted On Each Other’, a sexy, beat-thudding, riff-driven cut boasting Bay’s impressive falsetto. Bay follows the recent trend for electronic downtempo R&B with the intimate ‘Wild Love’ and the hip-swinging jazz sonics of ‘I Found You’.

His vocal is still rip-roaring, and complements more progressive instrumentation. Warped synth sounds scatter the record - on ‘Sugar Drunk High’, which sounds exactly as you think it will - and on the sweet funk jam of ‘Fade Out’, showcasing the reality of relationships in the digital age. Bay’s part-reinvention clearly has an appetite for being red-hot contemporary, if that means going all-out Daft Punk with the use of a vocoder (’Stand Up’).

This is an album that spotlights raw, physical emotions with confidence, in turn diminishing Bay’s original heart-on-my-sleeve sensibility. In a modern world of exhaustingly complicated relationships, ‘Electric Light’ is a little less serious, and a little more hedonist fun. Alice Mortimer

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