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James Harries’ Newest Album “Superstition” Reviewed by Shelley Thomas

James Harries’ creative newest album is out now on all platforms, sure to please with a progressive, yet classic sound. 

The title track, “Superstition” starts on a powerful, hopeful note with Gospel and European folk song influences. Quixotic lyrics fall between crushing drum beats, as synths swell into the wholesome chorus. The bridge is an atmospheric moment of subtle, Afro-feel guitar effects, like a haze, and the song ends leaving us feeling fulfilled via the major tonic. 

A record-player grittiness and horn arrangements a la Amy Winehouse rule on “Before We Were Lovers.” An incessant fifth pulsing through the verse taps on your shoulder and leads you towards the vintage-inspired chorus, which grows towards the end with a feel-good sixties soul refrain that belies lyrics of tormented heartbreak. 

The urbanely romantic “Lights” shows no time like the present. Soul claps and gentle guitar diads pair with devoted lyrics and a locomotive momentum. A bass-funky bridge and staccato vocals lend brevity to the lyrics, “Where there’s mystery, there’s possibility.” 

The classic ballad “Something Like This” features refreshing female vocals in a pleasing octave to the main melody. Contemporary alt-inspired piano and synth pads open up gently to twinkling bells and little-drummer-boy drum rolls, which evolve into webby arpeggios. A straight-ahead rhythmic build with heartfelt vocals ends with an anthemic Coldplay-like wall of sound. 

Dusty drums and a more melancholic, pensive vibe start off the next track, “Lonely Dancer.” An infectious and timely beat clocks along with tasteful ethereal layers and mature melodic writing. The song explodes to full force two-thirds through, with convincing emotional impact. A dystopian and jaggedly produced ending reveals a lack of closure to the unrequited love story. 

We’re in da club with “Sorry”, an upbeat groove/dance track. Head-bopping bass, sweeping synths, and sirens become a pleasant earworm, while wistful lyrics convey “our room is filled with lonely elephants.” 

Reckless Love and Slow Redemption” has a late disco-funk feel. Colorful chord substitutions portray a carefree abandon, like driving down Sunset Strip with the top back, our problems tossed to the wind. 

The cinematic “Stars” feels as though you’re lying on the grass under the night sky, waves of sound rotating softly above you. An understated and contemplative chorus aches with simplicity, “I need your smile to close my eyes to.” 

You Meant Everything” begins with a nostalgic 80’s drive-in movie feel. Heartbeat-like synths compound the lyrics, “Something heavy lay across my chest.” Subdued, sentimental undertones build with fantasy-like ethereal layers before a crisp hot beat drops. An imaginative mix between old-school crooner and new wave. 

Harries’ new album reveals a great depth of dynamic range, genre versatility, and captivating songwriting. Lots of ear candy on the fun, progressive production with tasteful layers, pentatonic cascades, and sonic pulses. A fitting soundscape for our 2020 ride, to be appreciated by diverse audiences.

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About the author

Described as “refined, imaginative, and gorgeous” by Beehive Candy, vocalist, oud player and composer, Shelley Thomas blends Balkan, Arabic, Hindustani, Classical, Pop-Soul and African music styles in her compositions to create the emergence of a new genre: World Chamber Pop. With cinematic arrangements and inspired emotive power, she interlaces diverse threads of culture through a rhythmic, poignant examination into the human condition.

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