There is going to be a lot of music in the coming months, perhaps even years, that reflect upon the wild, wild west that was 2020. Much of that will be somber as to mirror the feelings felt throughout that dismal year, but not every note sung from here on out will be melancholy so long as artists like James Henry exist. He says he is overlooked, but I say not for long as 2021’s ‘Pluck’ is just the musical pick me up many around the world need.
There is a purity throughout ‘Pluck’ that is undeniable through and through. Reminiscent of the ‘90s when bands like Barenaked Ladies were at the forefront of making straight-laced pop songs that people of all ages could hear on the radio and think, well, that is a good time. That is where this album started as “A Girl Like You” came on. Strong right out of the gate, this track played well with the easygoing ways of “Cinema Haze” that followed. Being London-based, it did not take long for the Brit-pop-inspired tracks to come into play with the wonderfully done “Available for Selection.”
Really though, what I look for when I listen to a record in its entirety is how it reminds me of things I already love, as well as where could this record play well in the present. It’s that mix of then and now that ironically came about towards the middle of this album as “Currently Resting” took me back to watching Demi Moore’s coming of age, cult classic, ‘Now & Then’ with its retro soundtrack that celebrated the ‘60s. I also appreciated that much of James Henry’s music could do well at a summer concert series in almost every city in the world. Songs like “I’ve Never Loved You More” and “Lying Down” underneath the summer sun as the grill is working overtime to deliver an array of barbecued goodies? Yup, I could imagine that and want that now.
There were also lyrical moments that stood out as well on ‘Pluck’ that have to be given their own time in the spotlight as they made my writing heart flutter with joy. First up, “Afterthought.” I think a lifetime of being the middle child, the shy kid, the quiet adult…this song hit me in a way I did not expect. I am often pushed to the side as I do not have the loudest personality in the room, but I felt empowered by this track to start to speak up for myself, and like James Henry sings, “I’m never going to be anybody’s afterthought” anymore. Another track that hit me was “Tomorrow May Be Too Late.” There was no line in particular, but the song as a whole was a wonderful message to anyone out there who needs to be encouraged to just live their life to the fullest each and every day.
I began this musical journey through ‘Pluck’ by saying this album was just what we needed after the chaos that was 2020, and it is true. The pure goodness throughout and James Henry’s positivity in his arrangements were definite pick-me-ups on this album, but this song – this is a song we need pumped into our brains. “Tomorrow May Be Too Late” is a reminder that while time continues and is a constant, our lives are quite the opposite. Tomorrow is not guaranteed and in the end, today is all we will really ever have.
Simple pop music that ranges from Brit-pop goodness to ‘90s sweet, songs that take you back but also keep you here, and lyrics that are a form of self-care, that is what you can find on James Henry’s ‘Pluck.’ It is his first album in a decade and if we are being honest – it was worth the wait. Those interested in checking this one out can find ‘Pluck’ on James Henry’s Bandcamp today.
Written by Kendra Beltran