On seeing James McLaren at the Priory on Halloween for the first time, I initially think of Alex Gaskarth. With his long hair swept over his face, he seems like a token poster boy. Being in a university setting, though, it might be a bit out of place to start singing saccharine pop songs fit for tween girls. Thankfully, when he starts to sing, it is of a higher calibre and is lot more mature than All Time Low.
There are quite a few differences. For one, he is noticeably English. His songs are slow to start, and quiet, but you can still pick up on the twang — almost like an Anglo-Bon Iver.
Being in a Starbucks that offers half price frappuccinos, it’s hard not to get drowned out by the almost thunderous sound of ice in a blender. With every song he plays, he appears to get a little more confident, and uses more volume at the choruses as if to tackle the noisy interruptions. It does not get to the point where he strains his voice at all, though it would’ve been better had there been a quieter setting.
Nevertheless, the set lifts around the fourth song in, when he is joined by a percussionist playing on a cajon drum that give songs more of a drive and power to them, which also starts to hark some well deserved attention.
I spoke to him after the set and he tells me that he hopes to put more work on his current solo project and perhaps make more releases on his own next year, while also touring and working with his band, Octane Ok.
His own songs, as you can imagine, are more personal dream-like, hazy recollections with a steady beat to carry the waves of his songs through. The strongest song of the set by far is a song called For A Day, the last song on his Stay Aboard EP which is cathartic and extremely catchy. Overall, his sound is ideal for the autumnal weather as it has a perfect mix of the darker undertones of colder night but also the warmth of a fire to cosy up to afterwards.
The Coffee House Sessions take place every Friday, 1.30pm in the Priory, L6 of the Union. Find out more: http://www.coffeehousesessions.com/ or follow the tour on Twitter.