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Shannon Livewell

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James Bay brings chaos & calm to 2015

Two years ago, I was scrolling through some Burberry Acoustic Sessions on YouTube when I came across an awkwardly endearing British singer/songwriter who was propped on a fire escape with guitar in hand. With soulful vocals and emotional chords behind every breath, James Bay instantly made me a fan of his music.

Within the last year, Bay has been making constant strides towards progress, even performing as a part of The Spotify House down at SXSW two weeks ago. Recognizing there was a need for more of his powerfully evoking music, Bay released his debut full-length album, Calm And The Chaos on March 23. He recorded the twelve-track masterpiece at Blackbird Studios in Nashville, Tenn.

James Bay (Photo obtained via Facebook)

James Bay (Photo obtained via Facebook)

I would like to preface this review by saying—covering all of the amazing aspects of this album is extremely daunting, so as much as I want you to value my musical opinion, I strongly suggest you listen, start to finish, and formulate your favorites for yourself. It’ll be hard to choose!

The album opens with a guitar and drum driven instrumental, contrasting with Bay’s smooth and “calm” vocals. “Craving” is the opening track for a reason; it gives the listener a comprehensive idea of the story-telling artist that Bay is. The verses talk about the mundane steps we all walk through in our daily life. There is no fairytale-like moral of the story, just raw feelings and honest words. The hook repeats by saying “I’m craving something I can feel,” reiterating the pattern of life that repeats like the “ticking of clocks.”

“Let it Go” is the third track on the album and even the opening guitar has melancholy warmth to it. The lyrical content in this song is more like a poetic letter. It talks about the phases that a relationship can go through when both individuals are striving to hold onto themselves but realizing their identities are changing as they grow closer together. There is a struggle evident between choosing to walk away or stay, ironically backed by a continuously simplistic instrumental. Bay’s vocals are the star of this track, with no overproduction.

The seventh track, “Move Together,” combines indie folk and alternative music with R&B elements. This is a nice change of pace for Bay as it allows him to express the soulfulness that sometimes hides behind the lyrical content of his other songs. Once again speaking about relationships, which seem to be the theme of this album, Bay preaches that a couple must move together to get to the same place. He finds a clever way to hide literal and physical meaning behind the idea of this track. This is the perfect song to drive your relaxing Sunday afternoon.

While I could go on and on about every single song on this album like how much I love the chorus of “Scars” and the way “Hold Back the River” will make you want to get up and dance. It is easier to say this is, by far, my number one choice for the album of 2015 thus far and, with over 64,000 combined sales bringing Calm And The Chaos to the number one spot on UK charts, it’s safe to say that others agree.

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