james – La Petite Mort review

JAMESALBUMCOVERFrom the first listen, I knew that james’s new release, La Petite Mort (out June 2nd), would be one that I could talk about for all too long. Being their first release in six years, I was expecting big things, but I didn’t realise it was going to be, well, quite so excellent. There’s simply no other way of putting it, this album is my new favourite of the year. Personally, I’m not a fan of tracks over around five minutes, so upon seeing that the opener for La Petite Mort was a shade over seven minutes, I found myself a little braced for it. Walk Like You, however, is a track that I wanted to last much, much longer than it did. The colourful, instrumental opening is joined by Tim’s (Booth) soft vocals, creating a sound that only made me think of something very 90s, revamped. As the drum beat brings itself in, though, gone is the wishy-washy sound that might lead to a rather samey album, and the crude bite in lines like “fight like you” create a crisp contrast of the music and lyrics. The almost synthesiser/dance start to second track, Curse Curse, comes as somewhat of a shock in comparison to the soft string of the previous tracks. Despite the band having been around since 1982, they aren’t stuck in the past, and the line “Messi shoots and scores” isn’t needed for the song to appeal to a young adult audience. With a chorus that you can’t help but dance to (or sing along with, at the least), and lines that easily grab the attention, I reckon this would have been the ideal leading single. Third track, Moving On, slows the record down again, and even after seeing the video many times, Tim’s voice still brings a tear to my eye. A grittier and simpler opening to Gone Baby Gone leads into yet another chorus that would make an amazing live show, and the fact that Tim can simply repeat the words “love” and “blah” towards the end of the track and still makes it worth listening to speaks volumes about the band. Personally, I found Frozen Britain to be the least impressive track off the album – it’s not bland or uninteresting per se, and it definitely fits right in with the other tracks, but I’m somehow underwhelmed by it. That said, if every song were equally astounding, it would still feel somewhat monotone, and this track almost works as an interlude. Sixth track, Interrogation, brings the pace back up again, and the strength in Tim’s vocals on the repeated line “liars, lies and self deceit” strikes a bold mark against the soft instrumental that accompanies it, and as the music changes towards the end, becoming slightly heavier,  the band’s talent is showcased. Bitter Virtue is the perfect example of the contrast between the soft vocals and instrumental and the harsh lyrics, and something about this understated cruelty is overwhelmingly appealing. The piano opener of All In My Mind sets romantic note for the tracks, and the rather heartfelt note to the track bring about a refreshing switch in the mood of the record. The penultimate track, Quicken the Dead, responds to this with a fast piano instrumental and Tim’s voice soaring over the music with the previous candour. A sombre note settles on the closing song, All I’m Saying, and it very much feels like the most personal track off the record. The line “I’m talking to no one” addresses everyone and no one at the same time, and the closing lines “I’m missing you and all the worlds you opened up to view, I’m missing you, see you next time” add a shockingly sincere final note to the record. This album strikes the perfect combination of soft, candid and alive and james have created a record which is mostly definitely worth the six years wait, accessible yet passionate. I generally try and specific who might enjoy this most when I say this is a “must listen”, but this is a must listen for everyone.

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