18. James Alexander Bright: Float

In my Louder Than War review of James Alexander Bright’s second album, Float, I described it as the “sound of summer”. So how will it sound now that we are in the bleak mid-winter?

At the time of writing, the streets are white with a deep frost. The mercury plummeted to minus eleven overnight. And as I prepared for this piece, I wondered precisely what the sound of summer sounded like in the run-up to Christmas. Happily, I can report that Float is still a fantastic listen. Of course it is; great music prevails. Instead of it being of the moment, as it was in July, it now serves to bring a warming glow. Momentarily, you are uplifted; thoughts of how you are going to pay the heating bill when the boiler is working overtime are temporarily banished. 

One of the most impressive things about Bright is how he makes it all seem so effortless. The tunes breeze out of your speakers, radiating sunlight and washing all over you. His distinctive vocal has never sounded better. Furthermore, musically speaking, Float is technically superb, something made all the more impressive by Bright’s decision to create much of the music on Float entirely on his own. 

The percussive opening track, Drink This Water, is outstanding evidence of his multiplicity of talents across a range of instruments. He bring a real homespun feel with his acoustic guitar whilst providing an interesting counterpoint with his fluid bass line. The early momentum on Float is maintained by the retro vibe of Wheels Keep Turning. It’s a gorgeous track, written as an ode to childhood holidays, when he would sit in the backseat of the car, transfixed by the magic of the radio. 

Although Bright is something of a master-of-all-trades, he isn’t averse to collaborating when the song calls for it. Float’s last two tracks are perfect examples. On Sundown, Bright partners with Fink, who brings his Americana guitar lines. The anthemic finale, Be Strong, is vaster than anything else on this collection and features outstanding vocal contributions from Kelly and Leo Wyatt and a spongy synth bass from Benjamin Smith.

Float is an album where every second counts. There is absolutely no padding here and that’s one reason why it deserves to be in the Musical Advent. It’s so much more than the sound of summer. It sounds just great at Christmas too.  

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