12 Songs, 50 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

In the same vein as modern genre-defying efforts by Robert Glasper Experiment or Kris Bowers (who's also keyboardist in this band), While You Were Sleeping sounds more like a thoughtfully assembled mixtape. Some material sounds like it was hatched by Radiohead (“Anywhere U Go”) or Jimi Hendrix (“Angel”) thanks to the guitar work of Brad Allen Williams. More mechanized but just as visceral is the haunting “Every Little Thing,” which offers the album's strongest hook. Less surprising but no less inspired is the tinge of postmodern R&B—think André 3000 or Frank Ocean, as well as Zero 7—on tunes like “Bodhisattva,” “XX,” and “Without U.” Pushing in a different direction, the acoustic guitar–driven “4 Noble Truths” comes with a violin and cello break, and jazzy singer/songwriter Becca Stevens duets with James on “Dragon” to cast a subdued spell. A soulful take on Al Green’s “Simply Beautiful” closes things out in style, with additional points in Takuya Kuroda’s bluesy trumpet solo. Even so, it hangs together on the strength of James' wispy baritone, making for a remarkable eye-opening musical experience.

EDITORS’ NOTES

In the same vein as modern genre-defying efforts by Robert Glasper Experiment or Kris Bowers (who's also keyboardist in this band), While You Were Sleeping sounds more like a thoughtfully assembled mixtape. Some material sounds like it was hatched by Radiohead (“Anywhere U Go”) or Jimi Hendrix (“Angel”) thanks to the guitar work of Brad Allen Williams. More mechanized but just as visceral is the haunting “Every Little Thing,” which offers the album's strongest hook. Less surprising but no less inspired is the tinge of postmodern R&B—think André 3000 or Frank Ocean, as well as Zero 7—on tunes like “Bodhisattva,” “XX,” and “Without U.” Pushing in a different direction, the acoustic guitar–driven “4 Noble Truths” comes with a violin and cello break, and jazzy singer/songwriter Becca Stevens duets with James on “Dragon” to cast a subdued spell. A soulful take on Al Green’s “Simply Beautiful” closes things out in style, with additional points in Takuya Kuroda’s bluesy trumpet solo. Even so, it hangs together on the strength of James' wispy baritone, making for a remarkable eye-opening musical experience.

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