Chaos and the Calm is the debut album from new kid on the block, singer-songwriter James Bay and charted at number one on the official charts soon after its release on march.
Similar to the likes of Ed Sheeran, Hozier and George Ezra, Bay is known for his husky tones which sing in perfect harmony to the sound of his guitar, the number one reason why fans of Ed Sheeran (like myself) will particularly like this record.
while in many aspects Bay could easily be compared to likes of Sheeran and Ezra and probably come across as just another dude with a guitar. However, in comparing this album with Sheeran’s album X would be an entire world away not only because they are entirely different genres to start off with but also because this record initially appears much more upbeat.
Now admittedly when he first came on the scene with track Hold Back The River I wasn’t too keen, not because it was a bad song as it was anything but, but because it appeared to be one of those songs that could go one of two ways; it could be easily overplayed and soon become tiresome or it could be one of those songs that couldn’t be topped. However, he appears to have proved me and many others with this album and I have to admit I love it.
from the off , Bays vocal ability together with his catchy lyrics and guitar skills strikes an immediate cord. The first song on the album Craving has a more indie approach in comparison to the catchy riff of Hold Back the River but it maintains the emotion and power that seems to be a constant in all his songs on this album.
If there’s one thing that appears different with this record in comparison to many other singers debuts is that this appears to be in places a little experimental, by track 3 the album takes a laid back chilled approach for let it go. While to some people the sudden tempo change would probably serve as a bit of a disappointment, I personally quite liked its place on the album as it allowed us to here not only his vocal ability more prominently but also his skill on the strings.
listening to the album in full there are songs in particular that stand out for me and all for many different reasons;
Hold Back The River (track 2): this song in particular stands out for me first of all because this is song that introduced me to James Bay. Now as I said earlier when I first heard this song I was a little undecided on whether or not it was too ‘soft rock’ for my rather indie taste in music. However, after quite a few listens I grew to love the song to the point where that opening riff off his acoustic guitar immediately catches my ear. While the lyrics generally speaking are very simple they are sung with perfect harmony, power and strength which can sometimes be difficult for male artists to pull off, but Bay does it with style and fines like a true professional.
If You Ever Want To Be In Love (track 4): this next song stands out to me as I particularly like how you can clearly hear the layers as the song begins and how it shows off his guitar and vocal ability more prominently than some of the other songs in the album. The lyrics are while being very catchy are again sang in perfect harmony with power and emotion which can be felt throughout. I also particularly like his tone throughout and how in parts it sounds like an old pop song which clearly shows who he may have been influenced by musically.
Best Fake Smile (track 5): personally this is one of the highlights of the album in particular I like how the guitar is the most prominent instrument on the track and think this track would be a good one for him to play live as it would show off his playing ability the most. This track also stands out as you can hear the tones of his voice as well as the power and emotion in this song more than you can on other songs on the album. I particularly like the unique arrangement of this song as well as it appears more stripped back than other tracks but still has the same affect which is another aspect that puts him up there with the likes of George Ezra and Ed Sheeran.
Get Out While You Can (track 10): This is another song I really like on the album from the killer opening riff of this song which is maintained throughout to his husky tones that resemble those of Paolo Nutini’s in places, this song is possibly one of the best on the album and will probably be really good to hear live. Again I like how the guitar is the most prominent instrument in this song and I like how in places it resembles Paolo Nutini’s Candy but not too much where it sounds like his is copying his tone directly.
Overall, I genuinely think this album is up their with the likes of Ed Sheeran’s X , Paolo Nutinis Caustic love and Kings of leon’s Come Around Sundown and with a Brit Award already in his belt I think we will hear a lot more from Bay in the coming years and this is probably only just the beginning!