BY JULIA SMITH// I heard James Bay’s music for the first time four years ago at a quintessentially SoCal music festival called Weenie Roast, hosted by KROQ at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre (may she rest in peace). During a festival that was part indie/alternative/flower crown girl haven, and debatably part Cinco de Mayo celebration, Angelinos and Orange County natives baked under the sun in enthusiastic throngs to hear radio’s most-played alternative artists. James Bay, a fresh new face on the scene, played early in the day at the smaller stage – the perfect venue for this singer/songwriter. Recalling that performance, the first word that comes to mind is honest.
While his debut album Chaos and the Calm brought us the raw vocals of “Hold Back the River” and the echoes of the blues in “Collide”, Bay’s most recent album sharpens the edges of his sound. The title Electric Light says it all: though you can still hear his alluring guitar riffs in tracks like “Wasted On Each Other”, and the influence of the blues in the Hammond organ in “Us”, the sound of his sophomore record is far more electronic. Bay plays with synthesized vocals, spoken sections, and more driving rhythms; he is clearly toying with pop music colors and textures while remaining true to his vocal and guitar-driven roots.
How has his newly discovered electronic identity translated to live performance? We’ll find out next week! You can catch James Bay’s Electric Light Tour here in D.C. on Friday, March 8 at The Anthem!