JAMES BAY ★★★
Electric Light Republic Records
The long locks have been shorn, the trademark hat has been binned and the first single from James Bay’s second album was enough to have fans of the rousing folk-pop peddled on his debut anxiously wondering where the surging choruses were. To be fair, that song, Wild Love, is not hugely indicative of the English musician’s latest fare, although there have certainly been some positive changes. Songs like schmaltzy ballad Us, the Dire Straits-lite of Wanderlust and some criminally platitudinous lyrics (“Just for tonight, forget who we are”) don’t help matters – but the introduction of synth into his musical palette pays enormous dividends, rendering the bluesy folk-pop of
Wasted on Each Other, the soulful street party vibe of In My Head and the slinky, finger-clicking 1980s R&B of Fade Out surprisingly enjoyable. The pacy Pink Lemonade is a standout, while the Frank Ocean-style AutoTune of Stand Up strangely works. Bay still falls back on the irritating “build to monstrous climax” formula a little too often, but this is an undeniably solid progression. Look, we’re as surprised as you are.