Sunday, September 28, 2014

Review: Jay Soul - Stay With Me

The UK has been a hotbed of soul music singers for years, giving launch to artists like Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone, Adele, and most recently, Sam Smith, who has taken the recording world by storm. Now, South London born and raised Jay Soul is set to toss his hat into the ring, hoping that his signature style of eclectic blues, R&B, and pop will keep the trend going. 
The eldest of three siblings, Soul was raised in a single-parent home that encouraged him to pursue his talents. Among those talents was a genuine proclivity for working with technology, which the artist was able to parlay into a successful career as an IT professional. Yet, another muse also called to him, that of music. Taking time to work on his vocal skills as part of a gospel choir and later being afforded the opportunity to perform background vocals for several UK urban acts. Now, he’s stepping out of the shadows and is taking the mic into his own hands, set to deliver his own brand of Soul.
Part of that brand involves providing a dichotomy of sound, offering up some bright, sunny tones alongside darker, moodier vibes that evoke elements of the highs and lows of life, that same tone bleeding into the lyrical content as well.
“People will be surprised when they hear the album because I want to cover a broad range of subjects,” Soul shares. “It won’t just be a bland R& B album about love and relationships. It will also be about what I’ve witnessed around me, although I’m no activist. I believe in capitalism but also in presenting people with opportunities. I have been presented with opportunities but I have also looked for them. Everyone in this country is lucky in that sense." 
Soul gets things off to a strong start with the title track, framing his warm, smooth vocals against a sparse backdrop that really lets him shine. The subtle instrumentation really allows for the nuances of the artist's voice to stand out and proves to be one of the record's strongest tracks. "Any Day" takes another approach, offering up a beat-laden dance jam that lets Soul have a little fun, layering vocals and getting the party going. That's an angle that he echoes on the appropriately titled "Dance" as well, evoking thoughts of classic 90s R&B and pop jams.
"First Love" drops some more old school vibes, with rich and resonant keys highlighting Soul's tight baritone while "Get a Job" tackles some unexpected territory with a kicking groove that provides some sonic texture. But Soul is at his best when things are stripped down and "Afraid Reprised (Live)" and "Thank You" find the artist at his best, drawing both emotion and integrity into his sound.
While there are a lot of strong tracks, there are a few stumbles, namely when Soul tries to do too much as he does on "Up," the beat almost losing the richness of his voice and the layering of the vocals just feeling overwrought. Those same layering issues color "Inspiration" as well, the arrangement subdued but the layered vocal and a less than successful falsetto letting the artist down this time out.
But thankfully, those hiccups are the exception to the rule here and the whole of Jay Soul's Stay With Me showcases a bright artist on the rise. Soul evokes thoughts of an old soul while infusing plenty of his own unique charm into these songs, making this a promising debut that will have listeners hoping to hear more.

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