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Review: James Bay almost gets it just right on ‘Electric Light’ (Grade: B)

May 24, 2018

Though I’m not as passionate about it as my boss, non-musical intros, instrumental interludes and anything and everything in-between can take a hike.

Seriously, if you ever want to spark up an impassioned conversation with SVM Editor Jeff Rogers, tell him you really liked the first minute of James Bay’s new album, “Electric Light,” released May 18.

It starts with an ambiguous conversation between a young man and woman, with night-life city street background noise. For what reason? I don’t know.

Against our wishes, the couple even returns for a 1-minute interlude on track seven. There’s a car speeding, more ambiguous conversation and then, onto the next song.

Why, James? Maybe I just don’t get it. Well that’s probably because no one really, you know, says anything. Why, James?

Luckily for the skillful and soulful Bay, the album’s songs more often than not make up for the unnecessary fluff.

The album begins with the solid-enough “Wasted on Each Other,” and it’s pretty clear Bay’s second album is going to be a bit grittier brand of soul.

Where his 2014 debut, “Chaos and the Calm,” was more on the folk wavelength, “Electric Light” is much more, well, electric. It’s also a completely unafraid jump into the pop pool.

Thankfully, nothing is sacrificed in that shift. James Bay’s voice was meant to sing these songs. The kid’s got some pipes.

He shines on songs such as “Wild Love,” “Pink Lemonade,” “I Found You,” and “Slide.”

There’s really not a bad song on the album, as it’s pretty balanced and enjoyable across the board.

By the same token, though, the album lacks a true, without-a-doubt stand-out single, which is necessary in the pop world in which Bay has found himself.

Though, based on both Bay’s promise and talent, I think the best is yet to come. As he continues to experiment with sounds and settles into one all his own, the 27-year-old singer-songwriter can only continue to grow.

In the meantime, we now have another satisfying and diverse release – though a touch too long at 14 songs – from one of the best performers England has to offer.