Words by Kaysei Galea
Crafted with you in mind, Hayden James bursts back onto the scene with a euphoric and incredibly inspiring offering in his sophomore album ‘LIFTED’. James recruited a highly respected entourage, calling in the likes of Cassian, Elderbrook, Boo Seeka, SIDEPIECE, Flynn, YAEGER, Jem Cooke, Xavier Dunn and Tudor to help bring the album to its highest form. Beginning work on the album in 2020, and charged by a heavy few of years of collective disconnect, James set his sights on uplifting his listeners, intricately and purposefully weaving nine tracks together to set the tone for when they’re able to unite once again.
“LIFTED was born out of the yearning for some light and positivity after a tough last few years for everyone. As I started writing the album, I kept coming back to the idea of creating something energetic and live and super uplifting that could bring people together again.”
The release comes off the back of news that the producer will tour worldwide in 2022, further cementing himself as a highly loved and renowned artist in his own right. James will inspire audiences in North America in May and June (kicking things off in style at Coachella) and will return home for a national tour of Australia and New Zealand in August and September. Check out if Hayden James is hitting your city here.
With reconnection at the forefront of his mind, James crafted this body of work with live experience in mind; evident from the tone set in the very first track of the album, Lights Go Down. From hearing the funky moving bassline in the first second of the track, you’re back there again – sweaty summer festivals sharing magical moments with strangers. Working with producer duo SIDEPIECE, the artist pairing fuse well-loved dance music elements with easy sing-a-long lyrics, making it the perfect festival banger.
Second track Hold Tight brings a change of emotional pace, building feelings of comfort in the idea of returning back home to someone you love. Crisp, clean vocals take on a storytelling role, and at the two-minute mark, the track builds and drops, with the lyrics conveying the important overarching message: “Ooh, it’s alright, I’ll hold tight, cause ooh, the riptide will bring me back, bring me back to you.” Considering the premise of the album, you can’t help but wonder if this is James’ love letter to his audience, yearning for time together again.
Somehow sweetly bossy and demanding of your attention is Fade feat. Flynn, the third track of the album. James masterfully walks the tightrope between thoughtfully subdued sound via minimalistic production, and attitude with a solid side of oomph, displaying the producer’s tasteful control of output. The kick really packs a punch in this one, and vocal layers add important texture to the overall sound, with the hook having us confessing, “I don’t wanna just keep fighting, this feels right.”
With soaring vocals from Elderbrook and synths at the forefront, you know from the outset that On Your Own (with Cassian) is a goer. The well-received single was released in March of this year hand-in-hand with a stunning visualiser, evoking pure nostalgia of live music events, something we’ve all yearned for for such a long time. Lovers of RÜFÜS DU SOL will appreciate this one, finding familiar cross-over elements such as pulsating bassline, full synth chord stacks and emotive lyrics.
Waiting For Nothing marks mid-album in the nine-song offering, featuring unmistakable vocals from Swedish-born YAEGER. Supported by a driving, percussion-strong production, YAEGER’s vocals are brought to the forefront, expressing feelings of doubt in like/love, saying, “I could be waiting for nothing with you. You’re killing me but it’s all good.”
Boo Seeka continues on the highly emotive train with Free. Driven by dark and moody synths, the track feels large and in charge and demands constant build and release. The track reaches its undeniable clincher at 3:39, as we’re shoved over the edge by a wall of synths, and lands in a lush feeling of euphoria, even post-play.
Down On Me is an immediate change of vibe, with Xavier Dunn’s vocals bouncing lightly over a pensive production, where, without proper care and attention, you fall into a hypnotised and reflective state. Track seven starts to point us in the direction of album conclusion, slowing for a brief moment of solitude in preparation for a fragile yet powerful finale.
The penultimate track and album’s namesake, Lifted, reminds us of why we’re all here – to feel uplifted, inspired and connected once again. James warms us from the inside out on this 90s-inspired track, with Tudor telling us, “Lifted my feet off the ground,” reminding us to do the same.
The conclusion of the album, and showcasing James’ grandest emotional moment, is I Won’t Let You Down, an ode to a dear friend’s passing. The almost-six-minute smoulder allows for Jem Cooke’s vocals to shine through and pay appropriate homage, with lyrics “I wanna be near you, wherever you go” really hitting home when intertwined with the warm and comforting production. The track fades to nothing in the final few seconds, gently placing our feet back on the ground.
True to its name, ‘LIFTED’ will inspire you to stand taller, believe harder and feel deeper.
‘LIFTED’ IS OUT NOW VIA FUTURE CLASSIC
Connect with HAYDEN JAMES
With thanks to THINKING LOUD