I’ve been excited about Hayden James’ debut album ‘Between Us’ since discovering him last summer – songs like ‘Just Friends’ became staples as I navigated NYC amidst the heat, hormones, and endless awkward encounters I found myself stuck in. When I heard ‘Better Together,’ I listened to it on repeat for months because it was the perfect blend of attentive lyrics and upbeat rhythm – I loved that it had the electronic sound I wanted but all the feels of an acoustic track. I enjoyed ‘NUMB’ for similar reasons – the song swirls around you in a way that’s reflective and exhilarating, refusing to bring you down even in the face of rejection. One of my favourite qualities about Hayden James is that his music is both thoughtful and in your face, and ‘Between Us’ uses emotive samples and synthesized baselines to unpack the magic (and mayhem) that is navigating intimacy.
Flash forward to this summer, and ‘Hold Me Back’ is the house anthem I’ve been waiting for that says “I come first” without having to trash the other person in the process. There’s a rollercoaster of emotions happening here, and that constant, internal back and forth resonates well – both in the lyrics and in the way the song shifts gears. I always go back to this one because it makes me feel like a total badass regardless of my mood – the same goes for ‘Favours’ and ‘Nowhere to Go.’ These tracks are gritty, bold, and highlight the not-so-pretty parts of exploring a relationship with another person, and they fully deserve to be played full blast out a car stereo. They carry that sense of freedom and bliss we all crave deep down, making them classic “wild and free” jams without sounding overly stereotypical.
This album is all about space in relation to someone else – whether that’s breaking the palpable tension on ‘Lost To You,’ wishing someone was a little closer on ‘Feelin’ – Interlude,’ or accepting that you’ve grown apart on ‘Between Us,’ Hayden James is unafraid to unpack the good, the bad, and the cringe. I really appreciated how each song kept its individuality despite the overarching theme – each one was like a mini novel in a series, equally as entertaining and refreshing as the next, but capable of capturing your attention on its own. I could feel myself getting more invested on tracks like ‘Weightless’ as the beat kicked in and the words got heavier – meanwhile, tracks like ‘Remember You’ required less concentration, but were nonetheless memorable (no pun intended).
I can’t quite describe it, but there’s a touch of something extra on this album that makes the whole thing effortlessly cool. We all know (Hayden James included) not to call our exes at 2 am or make out with friends we shouldn’t, but we also know life goes down regardless of logic – ‘Between Us’ is what happens when we allow ourselves to let go and own our actions even when things get messy. Pouring your heart out isn’t just for singer-songwriters the same way there’s more to EDM than just club bangers – Hayden James and his collaborators are out here owning their narratives and making infectious beats that feed your soul but also make you want to dance. I’m really glad I have a whole slew of fresh Hayden James tracks to strut down the street to as summer fling season begins – trust me, I know I’ll need it.
Fans can catch Hayden James on his ‘Between Us’ world tour on the below dates. All information for pre-sale and dates can be found here.