James McCarthy: Love Then Heartbreak

Singer/songwriter, James McCarthy started recording his debut album, Love Then Heartbreak in 2021. Assembling a band to bring his songs to life, the Boston-based musician admits he didn’t necessarily know the journey he was embarking on. To his credit, he took his time and three years later, the album is finally completed and ready to be released.

From the first notes of opening track, “I’ll Wait For You,” it is apparent why it took so long. The first few seconds include a jittery piano riff and strummed acoustic guitar over tambourine-infused drums. It’s breezy feel recalls early-00s indie singer/songwriters like Matt Pond PA or Pete Yorn. Despite how airy the arrangement feels, it also feels meticulous and done with extreme care.

Once the vocals begin though, it is easier to hear exactly where McCarthy’s influences lie. His hushed singing voice is unmistakable a take on John Mayer. Even the lyrics have a Room for Squares-era feel to them. McCarthy describes them as “about a relationship in the past that’s very sentimental and bittersweet – thinking about where the person is now.”

The Mayer comparisons do not stop there. On “Flying Higher,” the album’s second single, he adopts the blues-y guitar playing of Mayer’s mid-2000s and later works. It undoubtably works for McCarthy. The guitar playing is sublime and his knack for pop songwriting shines through in the track’s catchy chorus. It makes for one of the most successful songs on the album.

The deep cuts on the album are a bit more of a mixed bag. “Feel the Same” is an acoustic guitar arpeggio-filled ballad that sounds a bit like James Taylor. McCarthy’s pleading of “I’m still the boy you met in 2005” feels sappier rather than actually romantic. On the other hand, “On My Mind” is one of the more enjoyable non-singles. The midtempo piano jaunt recalls artists like Jamie Cullum and Rufus Wainwright.

For a debut album, Love Then Heartbreak does many things well. While James McCarthy may still need to fully develop a unique style, he clearly possesses the talent and the songwriting chops to do so. It is easy to imagine Love Then Heartbreak as the first step to a long, successful career.

Rating: 6.0/10

Listen on Apple Music

Leave a Reply