Review: Chaos And The Calm by James Bay

It’s been a great year so far for British singer-songwriter James Bay. Last month he won the Critics’ Choice Award at the Brits, and he’s just about to release his debut album Chaos And The Calm following on from the phenomenal success of single Hold Back The River.

With Chaos And The Calm touted as one of the most anticipated debuts of 2015, can it live up to the expectations of fans and critics alike?

The upbeat opening song Craving gives the album a powerful start, introducing you to Bay’s trademark guitar-driven sound. This is definitely a live track, perfect for festivals including T in the Park, V Festival, Isle of Wight, and Parklife that Bay will be appearing at this summer.

Followed by hit single Hold Back The River, the strong start continues. Hold Back The River peaked at number 8 in the Official UK Top 40 chart, proving much more successful than Let It Go, the first single from the album, which only reached number 62 in the UK chart. Incidentally, Let It Go is the third track on the album, slowing the pace after the powerful beginning.

If You Ever Want To Be In Love will also be a familiar tune for fans. Both Let It Go and If You Ever Want To Be In Love are much more pop-oriented tracks, slightly losing the indie rock vibe of some of the other singles.

Best Fake Smile provides the perfect platform for Bay to showcase his vocal talents, affirming his place as one of the best British singer-songwriters of the moment. It also has a really catchy chorus and guitar riffs that manage to be cool and edgy while still maintaining Bay’s classic indie pop genre. This makes Best Fake Smile one of the stand-out tracks on the whole album.

Another strong track is When We Were On Fire, again managing to produce an almost perfect blend of indie pop and interesting guitar riffs. In tracks like this, it’s clear to see that Bay was heavily influenced by classic rock music while writing the album.

Bay goes back to his acoustic roots with Move Together, a song full of gently strumming acoustic guitars and soulful lyrics. Scars is another emotional song, with a strong chorus backed up by expressive lyrics. These two tracks really prove Bay’s worth as a songwriter. The brilliance of this album is that the slower songs don’t seem out of place among their bolder, more upbeat companions. This is probably down to Bay’s years of busking, allowing him to connect with his fans through every single lyric.

The edgiest song on the album is Collide. It mixes electric guitars with bold rhythms and punchy vocals, proving to be a brave risk which luckily paid off. Get Out While You Can is similar. It’s another highly animated track like Craving, which would be equally great played live.

The album concludes with two more acoustic-oriented songs. Need The Sun To Break is a raw, stripped-back track with one of the most beautiful melodies on the album. However, it is slightly overshadowed by the following, and final, track Incomplete. This is unquestionably the most emotional song, featuring well-crafted lyrics and a moving melody which create a poignant track to end on.

Chaos And The Calm is an all-round well-crafted album, and an impeccable debut. Based on this album, expect great things from James Bay in the future.

Chaos And The Calm will be released on 23rd March.