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Electric Light [Deluxe Edition] *
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  • Don't ignore the promise of kinetic crackle that lies within the title of Electric Light, James Bay's 2018 sequel to his 2015 debut, Chaos and the Calm. Bay didn't bother with such tacky modern accouterments as electronic rhythms and pitch-shifted vocals on Chaos and the Calm, preferring a burnished, handsome classicism. All of that is thrown out the window on Electric Light, a loose concept album tracing the rise and fall of a romance, all set to modern soul grooves and bright neon hooks. The sonic shift is startling, but Bay grounds his second album with the same sturdy songcraft of Chaos and the Calm, so Electric Light is hardly all flash and style: beneath its glitter and blare, the songs are tight, melodic, and memorable, worming their way into the subconscious with ease. Still, the initial appeal of Electric Light -- and one that doesn't wane with repeated plays -- is how the album is vibrant, colorful, and alive in a way that Bay's debut simply wasn't. It sparkles with digital textures that give plenty of space for Bay to sing with a soulful abandon, a quality that wasn't necessarily evident on Chaos and the Calm either. Admirers of the deliberateness of the debut may find Electric Light a bit too slick and modern, yet that's precisely the album's appeal: Bay never seems like he's pandering; he sounds thrilled that he has a chance to make the kind of layered, genre-bending pop that he wants to make, and listeners may well find that freedom alluring. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Professional Reviews
NME (Magazine) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "It's all accomplished and well-produced -- as an introduction to these sounds, it's absolutely on the money..."
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