You’ve GOT to Hear This: James Bay – “Hold Back The River”

James Bay
Photo by Alex Shahmiri

With its array of unequivocal rock and melodic folk, James Bay’s new ‘Hold Back The River’ EP has rightly catapulted him straight into the spotlight, and won him the BRIT Critics’ Choice Award.

The title track has made Bay one of the breakthrough artists of 2014, before he’s even released a full-length album! The track’s minimalist start immerses you into the passionate lyrics, clearly building towards the anthemic chorus. The arrangement of the harmonies makes for one of the most atmospheric and captivating choruses that I’ve heard in a long time. The live version of ‘Hold Back The River’ that closes the EP makes for one of the most sincere moments found within James Bay’s music. It clearly emphasises the intense relationship he has managed to form between the music and the audience, as he forms a genuine connection through the personal yet infectious lyrics.

The track ‘Sparks’ is far more bluesy than the other tracks on the EP. It comes from a yearning for unrequited love and the eventual acceptance of loss. The cynical sentiment of lyrics such as “This can’t be all we are, silent and in the dark”, allows Bay to retain the emotive quality found in ‘Hold Back The River’, in an even more powerful and entrancing way.

“Wait In Line” is the third track featured on the EP and has a bare arrangement comprising of only an acoustic guitar and an impassioned voice. It is perhaps the most intimate track on the EP, forming the closest connection with the listener due to the starkness and openness of the vocal. With James Bay’s incredible voice highlighted in this acoustic track, it is no surprise that he has stood out as not only a great songwriter, but also a great live performer during 2014– through his supports for acts such as Hozier and Tom Odell.

With his debut album ‘Chaos and the Calm’ due out in March, Bay will undoubtedly keep his momentum going in 2015.

Review by Priyal Agrawal | @priyalagrawal

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