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AAA Music | 23 September 2019

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JOSE JAMES – While You Were Sleeping

| On 11, Aug 2014

JOSE JAMES - While You Were Sleeping

Singer-songwriter José James comes back with a new dynamic and a colourful album, While You Were Sleeping. After his debut record No Beginning No End, José hasn’t lost his originality and talent for mixing genres, weaving elements of indie rock, folk, funk, blues, hip hop and RnB into a confident and worthwhile album.

It starts with ‘Angel’ with funky electric guitar, soon accompanied by José James’s sensual voice at a tranquil pace. With the same mood, the third ‘While You Were Sleeping’ is very soothing, starting with acoustic guitar, this time mixed with soft keyboards. Its major-minor movement renders well the feeling of the uncertainty of life, alternating between moments of control and complete happiness, and darker moments of insecurity.

The second track, ‘U R the 1’, has a very interesting irregular drum rhythm, and the singing and  background melody don’t agree, giving the feeling of loss of one’s marks. It illustrates the other side of the album that we encounter here and there throughout the album. On that note, the fifth ‘Boddhisattva’ is like a beautiful glittering darkness, where sadness and loveliness meet, José shouting desperately “I’ve been lonely”, to which anyone could identify.

And when darkness leaves room for resentment, this produces something like ‘Anywhere U Go’ – this particular track has a stirring feeling of urgency; of kicking over the traces. The sixth ‘4 Noble Truths’ is also one of the highlights of the album, a jazzy track where José adopts an intense and powerful voice.

But on the jazz level, the last ‘Simply Beautiful’ is by far the richest – guest Takuya Kuroda revealing his talent during his trumpet solo; a solo having some style similitude with Cat Empire’s Harry Angus playing. This last track definitely has a retro blues feel; you could easily picture yourself under a blazing sun alone in the American West.

Once more, José has proved he knows how to marry traditional and modern musical tendencies in a way to stand out from the crowd. In any case, for the remaining skeptics, José James’s international fame and this album’s praise by The New York Times and NPR Music make it safe to say that his second multifaceted work is indeed a success.

Marguerite Gallorini