James Raftery – ‘Everything’

The title track from James Raftery’s upcoming album will set some ears on fire. Few composers and performers use their typical array of instruments with the imagination you hear on a James Raftery recording and the song has simmering sonic energy that’s impossible to deny. Stylishness plays a big role in Raftery’s presentation as well – there isn’t any wasted motion in “Everything” and it has just the right amount of atmospherics to get over with his intended audience. The assortment of synth sounds, drum machine patterns, and post production effects that Raftery utilizes on “Everything” never sound a false note and, instead, percolate along providing all of the satisfaction of any song performed on live instruments. There’s an obvious attention to detail in this song, as well, that listeners will immediately latch onto. “Everything” is vital, fresh, and will quickly enchant newcomers as well as listeners familiar with his previous work.

There’s a reflective, introspective quality pervading the work that will capture a lot of listeners’ attention. Electronic music, typically, is much more boisterous and outgoing, but Raftery is clearly working in another area. His choice to follow this musical path isn’t restrictive; Raftery proves this sonic backdrop is every bit as capable of expressing emotion and nuance as any combination of acoustic or traditional instruments. There’s certainly something to be said for how the control exhibited by the musical arrangement doesn’t neatly dovetail into the quivering humanity of the lyric, but there’s equally something to be said for the tension these different elements bring to bear. The immediacy is palpable. One gets the feeling hearing this song that you might be privy to a first raw, live take and the feeling encourages you to listen deeper. Everything about this song communicates the fact that it is an intensely felt musical and lyrical work.

His vocals bring everything together and represent a crowning touch. Raftery’s voice never rises much beyond a near-whisper, but they never need to thanks to his near matchless ability for communicating reams of feeling with delicate, deliberate vocals. His voice rises some for the chorus, but it’s just enough to make it a highlight and thankfully fails to go in for the big, overdramatic moment that other crasser performers might have chosen instead. The lyrics contribute much to the aforementioned introspective, reflective quality of the piece, but they remain accessible despite their personal nature. Raftery sounds fearless in his tackling of the song, but he also comes off as a supremely gifted interpreter of his own material who understands exactly what he wants to accomplish and how to get his audience from Point A to Point B without losing them along the way. “Everything” promises much and delivers. It will find fans among electronic music adherents but, moreso, will exert a surprising pull for those who otherwise never tune into this style. Despite the use of electronic music, there is a decidedly human quality to this performance that consistently shines through in its sound, singing, and words.

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Lydia Hillenburg