23 year old James Devlin has definitely carved out a lane for himself since the release of his 2010 debut 'Blood, Sweat and Beers'. Known for his passionate delivery of stories conceived of a world unfamiliar to the vast majority of his listeners, his sometimes brutal honesty is a change from the slickness offered up from a lot of his peers.
The opening track 'Sun Goes Down' on new album 'A Moving Picture' reinforces the album title with its epic sounding string arrangement and driving rhythm. The Katy B feature is the perfect fit as the two artists have been birthed from the new wave of singer/MC who's music manages to balance their glossy american influences with the greyness of inner city London- resulting in an almost melancholic soundscape which draws directly from the 90's dance scene.
The 90's influence is carried through on the Brit Pop sounding guitars featured in the Labrinth produced, Ed Sheeran collab 'Watchtower'. A definite highlight of the album, we hear Devlin guide us through tales of longing for a life before the fame. Sound wise the chaos of the crashing drums and high energy guitars would sound right at home on Plan B's recent 'Ill Manors' soundtrack, which incidentally is name checked in the second verse.
A few mis-steps emerge later on in the album, such as the faux angst filled track 'Rewind' which practically rips off 'Alone' by 80's band Heart- a clear attempt at trying to grab the ears of Radio 1. You can't blame him for trying, as despite selling gold on the last album the radio airplay chart success is something which escapes him and has had a direct affect on the success of his singles.
But all industry politics aside, he's delivered an album that plays to his strengths. The musical bed provided by big name producers Lewi White, Craze and Hoax and Labrinth only act as a canvas on which Devlin skilfully paints his story. Yes it's sometimes repetitive and yes there isn't too much growth shown lyrically or flow wise from the MC's first outing in 2010. But who can knock the hustle of someone clearly working towards building enough trust with his fans to a point where he can really be honest. An honesty I can almost smell with this album. I reckon as soon as he opens up properly we could be in for a treat.