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  • Tom H

Russell James | Wave/Water (new album)


Wave/Water is the hopeful, uplifting new album from Albuquerque-based, dream-folk singer-songwriter Russell James. For the better part of 2017, Russell, who lives his life with the audio integration disorder hyperacusis, complicated by parallels to the autism spectrum and a personal battle with PTSD and anxiety, felt as though he was standing in the shadow of his depression. From the darkness, Russell found glimmers of hope during the process of recording Wave/Water, which he self-released on April 20, 2018.

Wave/Water is about hope and the impact it can have on one's life. Its theme reinforces the notion that no one is alone in fighting life's battles - every person is weathering the pressures of something every day. This unifying connection of personal struggle can ideally be a force that enables us all to lean on each other for support.

With a musical style that has been compared to Ryan Adams, U2, Jason Isbell, and The Cure, the 12 tracks that comprise Wave/Water are solid, fresh indie-folk with ethereal, ambient elements gracefully weaved throughout. Russell's warm, emotive vocal presence nicely complements the bright-sounding, fingerstyle electric guitar arrangements and overall musical atmosphere. Wave/Water makes me think of road trips, breathtaking scenery, and bright, sunny and breezy days. This is an album that grows on you, and sounds even better with each listen. I've always been partial to listening to albums from start to finish, taking in the sequence and transition between tracks. Wave/Water definitely falls into that category - also, perfect to listen to on repeat as the closing ambient track "Water" almost seamlessly blends into album opener and ethereal counterpart, "Wave."

The album's musical style hovers between delicate and thoughtful to uptempo and energetic, all surrounded by two ambient instrumental pieces at the start and end. "Wave" is the ethereal, instrumental intro to the album, sounding just as gentle and soothing as you'd imagine. "The Slow Decline" is a strong, uptempo album highlight, with a vocal style reminiscent of early Michael Stipe (R.E.M.). "Ghosts" is my favorite track, with great guitar hooks that lead from each verse into the song's catchy, infectious chorus. "Worried Love" brings to mind aspects of The Cure with its into guitar riff and impressive, melodic chorus. Conjuring images of sunsets on a relaxing evening, "Rest On Me" is another strong album track with prominent keyboards and emotive violin at the close. The nearly 11-minute long closing track "Water" is an atmospheric gem, with gentle synths and bird-like sounds, in which you can immerse yourself and chill out - a great way to close out this impressive album.

Russell has been the artist-in-residence at Big Bend National Park and continues to tour regularly. He spent nearly all of April and May on the road promoting Wave/Water with a string of live performances, with another set planned for July. His performances have been described as emotive, uplifting, and unforgettable. For more information about upcoming news, performances and music from Russell, visit his official website, follow him on social media (Facebook, Instagram) and find his music on SoundCloud, Spotify and iTunes.

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