Hayden James EP Review
Hayden James EP is fucking great.
It all starts with a rapid fire synth riff that sounds like it’s straight out of the Legend of Zelda (is it Hayden? You can tell me, the nerd in me needs to know). This builds, with a subtle clap coming over the top, shortly followed by the bass line. Now, I’ve always felt – as do quite a few electronic producers – that your low end can, and inevitably does, define you. With Beginnings, James is letting us know, quite early, that he’ll be underpinning this EP with deep/wide bass that stretches to embrace you. It’s a warm, and for lack of a better word, ‘atmospheric’ approach to an opening track. This is even more evident when the synth builds to a climax, only to cut away and be replaced by haunting vocals that help breathe a bit of soul into a track that may have otherwise gotten a bit monotonous. He drops the track out a few more times, only to bring it back with more and more energy, combining the synths, vocals and humming bass line to grand effect.
The vocals are what carry this track here. The synth work and bass are both very simplistic. James strips it back and by doing so, let’s us know he can make engaging music that is compositionally simplistic, which is the polar opposite of his label mate, Wave Racer. In no way am I saying this is better or worse (c’mon, Stoopid is a fucking JAM) - I just love it when artists piece together only a few bits and pieces to produce a track you don’t want to skip the second it comes up on your playlist. It speaks of a maturity and confidence that new producers tend to lack. It’s not my absolute favorite on the EP, but I love that it reminds me of James Blake and how easily Hayden James has made making a track like this look.
Permission To Love
One word for this: perfection. I told you I’d be eschewing journalistic integrity from the beginning, and with a track like Permission To Love, it’s hard not to. The guitar sample, the warpy vocals, the bass line that just casually drives the track ever forward – even that beautiful break down at 1:17 – everything about this track is on point. He manages to make a track that makes you wish you were driving along the California coast line, top down, Victoria’s Secret model right next to you. It’s got just the right amount of composition, samples, build-up, breakdown and vibe that just hits all the right places. I already play it too much and don’t show any signs of slowing down. There’s a very good reason as to why this was picked as the single – it’s brilliant.
As you listen to the EP in its entirety, from start to finish, it’s at this point you realize that Hayden James makes tunes that are “lush”. Each song flourishes and blooms in its own way, with the beats, synths and samples just gently intertwining with each other to create a fully formed piece by the very end. With No Time, he does the same thing, however this one feels like it ends too soon and too abruptly. The track itself is great, but the ending is sort of harsh, which leaves a slightly bitter after-taste in the ears. Great song – horrible way to end it.
Great vibes on this one, with a clear influence being drawn from Future Classic label mate Flume. That little “mmhmm” is bloody brilliant, because it could so easily have been left out or forgotten by so many producers. But again, Hayden James shows that he thinks about each tune fully and completely and is set on leaving his own signature for us to remember him by. That said, the low end on Embrace feels a bit lacking. It doesn’t really punch hard enough to make your head or body move, but then again, I’d have to hear it on a big system to really appreciate that. It’s a tight track that builds and breaks rather perfectly, so I expect this is why Future Classic have released it as his second single (at least I assume that’s what’s occurring).
Lovely little re-imagining here that gives it a bit more of a consistent drive. I’m more partial to what I assume is his original track, but this is nice. It’s a pleasant little tune that bounces along nicely, except I’m not entirely sold on that cowbell. Sure, Flerm can make it work, but it feels tacked on and a bit out of place here. The lyrics are also a bit more of a centre-piece here. All in all, a really cheeky little tune that I expect to see played in a few sets at chilled out bars/restaraunts, but not so much club.