2019 has been a big year for James Cole. With the release of “Cali Queen” and an eyebrow-raising remix from AX.EL, Cole was able to lure a lot of new fans to an experimental R&B sound that he started building with 2018’s emotive pop-rocker “Just Because,” and with the arrival of his latest single, “Type of Guy,” he looks to up his game once again by dropping some of the best beats that I’ve heard this August. He’s already shown us what he can accomplish when his heart is invested in the narrative of a song, but with “Type of Guy,” James Cole looks to explore a slightly more surreal frame of subject matter while sticking with the trademark grooves that won him the hearts of so many critics in the last year. I really enjoyed the direction that he was taking with “Cali Queen,” but I’m even more interested in his music after hearing this recent recording in all of its high definition luster.
There’s a clubby energy to this track that there is just no getting away from no matter what portion of the song we’re listening to, but the substance of the melodies isn’t saturated in plasticity at all. The gilded guitar parts, the synthetic harmonies and the kaleidoscopic keyboards dance together like the flickering flames of a mountainside campfire, the playful percussive volley acting as the foundation for everything that transpires in their jubilance; it’s all rife with an edgy authenticity that reminds us that we’re listening to a living, breathing human being and not some robot modified to submit catchy pop hooks to us every now and again. The fabric of the instrumental melodicism in the background is almost cerebral in several key moments, recalling the surreal glow of the Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime,” and though the flashpoint of all the action remains James Cole and James Cole alone from beginning to end here, his disciplined execution affords the backing band just as much of a starring role. Is he changing the world with this single? No, but there’s no debating whether he’s got a future in this medium or not.
James Cole is on a heck of a hot streak at the moment, and truth be told, he doesn’t really have any formidable competition operating on the mainstream level right now. His music doesn’t simply reshape a sound that we’ve heard dozens of times before, nor does it seek to modulate something that’s already been perfected by a bygone generation of artists who probably wouldn’t fit in amongst the culture of 2019 anyway. I think that, instead of the aforementioned silliness, James Cole is trying to make something that is inarguably his own, and while I think that he has a few areas in his sound that could use a bit more polishing, I can’t think of another singer, songwriter or genuine student of the arts that is working with the potential that he is today. It won’t be long before audiences start to demand a complete studio album from this guy, and rightfully so – he’s the real deal if I ever heard it.