Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Review: Kelley James - The Pattern Transcending

California music scene is almost as diverse as its landscape. Where the California horizon boasts warm and sunny beaches, hearty mountains, and dusty deserts, the corresponding music scene is no less colorful. California has given birth to genres as diverse as psychedelic and glam rock, pop punk, West Coast hip-hop, folk revivals, and great acoustic pop. It’s a music scene that benefited greatly from the state’s call to the creative, seeing great talent emerge year by year.

National recording artist, Kelley James, is among that talent and he showcases some of the best that California has to offer on his latest album, The Pattern Transcending, offering up his own signature blend of pop, rock, reggae, and hip hop.

James is no stranger to the music world, having spent the last five years hard at work, performing over 750 shows. He’s “received recognition from several viral entertainment sites including BroBible, BuzzFeed, ClevverMusic, Mashable and Tone It Up” and his formation of The Sorority and Fraternity saw him tour nationwide. He’s had the opportunity to share stages with the likes of Mike Posner, O.A.R., Schwayze, and Joshua Radin while growing a devoted fan base and playing for everyone from the PGA to Google.

The key to James’s success lies in James himself as he crafts slick, radio-ready tunes beginning with a clean and polished pop backdrop. He then inserts elements of rock, reggae, soul, and hip-hop, carrying them all forth confidently and crisply with his easy going, approachable vocal and confident delivery.

Thus it’s a surprise when “Marinade” kicks them album off with a mixture of synth fills, kicking drums, and a pop-rock vibe that gets the toes tapping but finds lyric to be James’ most glaring misstep on the album as he sings, “I love the taste of your marinade/Let me marinate.” It’s just a lyric that doesn’t work and, while the arrangement is strong, it just can’t overcome that lyric.

It’s all uphill from there, however, as James employs some rich piano to open up the lover’s lament, “Sucks,” showing off plenty of keen pop sensibilities while “That’s My Girl” lets the artist marry soul and hip-hop, funky fresh bass tones providing a rich bed for his effortless freestyle flow. More funk plays into tracks like “Secret Lover,” more smooth bass lines accented by tight percussion while James continues to spit rhymes before giving love to the state of his music’s birth with “California.”

James tugs at the heartstrings of his lady listeners with the lovelorn tale, “Don’t Want to Let You Go,” bright piano vibes offsetting the darker mood of the lyric while “Stalker” is just pure pop fun as funky reggae-tinged tones set the table for James’ playful tale of infatuation. It’s akin to Bruno Mars’ new classic, “The Lazy Song,” and is almost as fun and infectious while “The Legend of Rip Venice” takes its shot at jaunty storytelling over against a mid-tempo soul groove infused with some shiny horn work that gives the track additional life.

“Carolina” finds the artist taking things a bit more acoustic, guitar opening things up before moving back into familiar pop territory but “Wonderful Place” and “Brother” deliver much more fully on those acoustic promises, the latter colored with frenetic fingerpicked guitar and tasteful fills of piano and strings that recall the sounds of Joshua Radin. They’re two of the more subdued tracks found here yet they really shine.

Kelley James’ The Pattern Transcending is an album that is full of tracks just ready to jump onto Top 40 radio. Eclectic yet accessible, James creates a sound that draws from the pop tradition while infusing it with his own pathos, bringing danceable, sunny tunes all day long. Perfect for fans of Jason Mraz, John Mayer, or Jack Johnson, The Pattern Transcending is an album that showcases a star on the rise.

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