The last release Ian James put out was in response to an RPM Challenge. 2015 EP Cheap Real Estate is an instrumental effort, but upcoming album In Flames, out December 2nd via his own Blue FX Records, is more properly a follow-up to last year’s Fever Dreams EP. On it the Lowell, Massachusetts alt-rocker serves up nine tracks with lots of groovy and guitar-driven action.
In Flames sparks up (get it?) with “Too Late”, featuring lots of hi-hat and a cool chorus riff. “Blood from a Stone” comes next, putting some blues into the proceedings with interesting low chords in the chorus as a trying relationship is chronicled. “Past Escape” has what I’ll call juking guitar (think sports), and an outro that changes tempo. “Everything Will Be Alright” then surprised me immensely: it’s very slow, and I immediately pictured a 60s school dance with a live band. The vocals are effected throughout by what I’m 96.4% sure is a chorus effect, giving them a layered sound.
As we move into the middle part of In Flames, we get quasi-title track “Up in Flames”. The ride cymbal is the highlight of this one, which pings interestingly (TM!) as we’re told “the whole world has gone insane”. “Cause and Effect” provided another surprise, as it’s an instrumental – a weird one at that. There’s horn and…other stuff, definitely a more eclectic feel. “Let Go” brings the vocals back, and guitar that follows them. A sweet drum fill interjects in transition throughout, which is my favourite part. “Spotlight” brings in acoustic guitar and harmony vocals, but rawks it up with an electric solo too. “I’ve seen it shining in your eyes” is a great line from the penultimate track. Finally, “Sundaynight Blacklight” ends the album with cool delay on the guitar and more instrumental action.
All in all, In Flames is rock you can dance to. It has the groove of artists like James favourite Jimi Hendrix, and some psych touches that complement a basically minimalist approach. When it’s dropped next month it’s definitely worth firing up. (Get i-*goes up in flames fatally*)
Ian James online: