JAMES BAY ★★★

Elec­tric Light Repub­lic Records

The Irish Times - - Friday Life Film & Music - LAUREN MUR­PHY

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.

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