James Bay | Leap Review
by Griff Stevens
James Bay is a rock singer and songwriter releasing his first full-length offering in four years via Republic Records titled Leap. Bay describes the twelve tracks as “the most positive thing” he has written, but he still deals with complex subjects. The Grammy-nominated artist uses the album to explore personal battles with self-esteem, loneliness, and the struggle to persevere to push through to healing, joy, and contentment found through dealing with struggle in a positive manner. Bay explains, “In 2019, I was really struggling. I started writing songs to try and help me deal with fear, anxiety, and problems with self-confidence. Feelings that run deep, that I’ve never wanted to share. Somehow, it all turned into some of the most hopeful and uplifting music I have ever made. I didn’t realize I was only halfway through making my third album when I came across John Burroughs’ quote “leap, and the net will appear.” It was in a book about creative rediscovery, and those words really sparked something in me. I was reading it because I was lost, feeling worthless. By 2020 I’d written a new batch of sad songs. I recorded them and thought the record was done. Then suddenly, the world shut down, and I couldn’t tour my new music. All I could do was stay home and write more. That’s when the album really started to take shape. It turns out there is light to be found even in the darkest moments.”
The second track, “Nowhere Left To Go,” combines delightfully simple songwriting with clean guitar, synth pads, and a catchy melody. His vocal style brings in a warm vocal sound and a wide range to convey his storyline in the lyrics. His melody embellishments are judicious, and the bridge acts as an excellent lift. The song builds nicely with layers of acoustic guitars and a full drum sound.
“We Used To Shine” showcases Bay’s expansion of his sonic structures, moving past relying on a guitar hook; this song builds layers around the vocals in a manner that expands with each pass through the form. Especially the chorus. Bay does have some tasty guitar parts leading to the bridge, just to remind you that his guitar is still an integral part of his sound. This is an impressive use of building numerous layers while maintaining a spacious and organic sound pallet.
Leap is an infectious new direction for Bay and one that demonstrates a new perspective of optimism through self-assured songwriting. Bay fans will drink deep from within these dozen songs, and the newfound optimism will appeal to a new and growing fan base.
Label: Republic Records
Release Date: July 7, 2022