Brendan James (Bonus Track Version)
On Brendan James' eponymous sophomore LP the New York singer/songwriter collaborated with producer Warren Huart, who has worked with Kris Allen, the Fray, the Thrills, and Augustana, among others. Since James writes on the piano, Huart chose the traditional method of keeping the instrument's presence up close with James' vocals to give the album an earnest sound void of any self-conscious affectations. "Nothing for Granted" opens with James' voice inflecting a natural trill before climbing up into handsome falsettos à la David Gray. Standout track "The Fall" is a moving ballad with a lovelorn narrative about being painfully realistic in a long-distance relationship. "Get It Right" is a subtly catchy song that makes tasteful use of sequenced beats nicely contrasting James' folky and organic approach to songwriting — and Huart's modern embellishments make for a more cosmopolitan feel. "Emerald Sky" comes close to a California vibe with its Colbie Calliat-esque bounce, but James' avoidance of vocal acrobatics helps retain an honest tone.