"Highly anticipated self-titled debut album..?" Songs on the album are from as early as 2016; highly anticipated indeed. However, Mitch James by Mitch James has something in it for everyone while also evoking some strong emotions through each song, I'd say the wait has been well worth it.
With a generous number of 14 tracks, there's 48 minutes and 24 seconds of catchy material that showcase his exceptional vocals, creative lyrics and a few subtle influences. Naturally, we draw comparisons to other artists, Ed Sheeran's first full length album, (+) comes to mind in terms of similar themes and genre. However, I struggle to hear any evidence of Mitch duplicating other artists.
No wonder half the album are singles, they're too catchy not to be...
Opening the album is pop-hit 21, a raw and honest track with anecdotes about the 23 year old wishing he was "back to 21". The song builds effectively and comfortably sets the bar for the rest of the album. But then we get Old News and he raises that bar, with a very strong 'kiwi' vibe which is missing in todays Top 40. Mitch takes situations that everyone can relate to but people rarely talk about openly, then continues to do that for the rest of the album, "change my mind every time I relive it". Freakin' awesome.
Before track Can't Help Myself, I was surprised that there were so many pre-released songs on the album and arriving at this track it was clear that Mitch James is particularly good at writing catchy hooks, no wonder half the album are singles, they're too catchy not to be.
In Bright Blue Skies, Mitch James sings in falsetto throughout the chorus and it compliments the melodies nicely before he goes into full voice later in the song. But this is the only build we get. Other than one big note - undoubtedly an impressive vocal - Bright Blue Skies doesn't build as effectively as the others do and stays at a similar level throughout the whole song. However, with a 14 track album, you can't expect every one to be a #1 hit.
We get to Apologise, and the anticipated build arrives. This song is full of dynamic, starting off quite soft and hitting the high point with an awesome guitar solo/riff. Each song on this album is extremely emotive, descriptive and seems to be representative of a time in his life. Without sounding too out there, it feels as though the album takes us on a journey of Mitch's last 5 years or so. Carrying us into No Getting Older, a sweet, soft pop ballad with generic piano rhythm accompaniment. There were a few moments of variation with small and subtle riffs, but being the classic pop-music piano rhythm, I did need more differentiation.
... a song with a sassy perspective, showing some frustration and letting us in on a bit more about Mitch James' character.
One More is a sweet love song, lyrically and dynamically, with particular references to chorus being softer than the versus and the lyrics; "We got a room for one more". I also appreciated the line "ups and downs and downs and ups and downs", my initial thought was this was a lazy way around filling lyric in the chorus. However thinking about how the melody literally goes up and down and the way it repeats effectively mimic's the realities of relationships. I also feel as though it's important to note that Mitch's lyrics in this song are incredibly specific and heartfelt for someone who hasn't actually gone through the process of having a kid. Very impressive.
It Ain't Helping brings a slight jazz/funk influence to the album in a song with a sassy perspective, showing some frustration and letting us in on a bit more about Mitch James' character. Taking us to Lay It On The Line, another track with a catchy hook but a guitar strumming pattern similar to Can't Help Myself.
Got Today plays with expectations and delays nicely in it's chorus, with the second syllable of "away" slightly off the beat which is a nice break from tradition. After we've become comfortable with this convention, in the very last chorus the delay is slightly earlier which adds even more variation with our expectations nicely. Bringing us confidently into No Fixed Abode, the single with the most Spotify plays and went Gold in Sweden. Mitch says a few words about the song,
This song I wrote about the worst time in my life, sitting on that $3 dollar couch... in Dunedin.
No Fixed Abode is the oldest release out of the songs on the album and his voice is slightly huskier. I imagine this is likely due to less focus on his voice, however I quite like the husky tone, it added a bit of character to his vocals.
The last three songs on the album are, All The Ways To Say Goodbye, Move On and Saving Time. Three love songs that had already been released prior to his debut album. By the time I get to All The Ways To Say Goodbye, I already know that Mitch James is an incredibly clever lyricist, has an exceptional voice and can write a super catchy hook.
Throughout the album, he continues to surprise us, until these last three songs that, in all honesty, merge together for me. Listening to them on their own, they're good songs but with a 14 track album, the momentum needs to keep up until the very end, something that I feel wasn't present in order of these last three.
Mitch James' debut album takes us through a life that's hard to believe a 23 year old has experienced. Whether he has or hasn't, Mitch has an amazing ability to put real life scenarios into a melodic masterpiece and there's no wonder why there was so much hype for this album. Mitch James is the next big name in kiwi music that will undoubtedly be remembered.
You can catch Mitch James on tour this September, tickets at mitchjamesmusic.com
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Released: 14 Sep 2018