We review the new single from James Holt – The Wedding

Songwriter and multi-instrumentalist James Holt’s new single The Wedding opens with the subtly  disturbing sound of wedding bells. They’re played in reverse, and the  sucking, prickly sound suggests anxiety, maybe even psychosis. What a surprise, then, when the sound gives way to a jaunty, danceable tune complete with jangle guitars and dreamy backing vocals.

Holt’s melody is singable on the first listen. You already know this song, and it might be because you might know the feeling; it’s the one you get when the ex you’re still in love with marries somebody else. 

The Wedding explores the painful event from the top, observing each stage of the ceremony from church entrance to final kiss. The speaker observes his mixed emotions as they arise, carefully describing each swell of his heart. It’s a curiously cerebral approach to heartbreak. The emotional temperature is so controlled that when Holt reflects, “How could anyone with a heart resent her?” you wonder if it’s an attempt to remain rational or a storytelling exercise. But the emotional distance is broken when he stumbles into brilliance with gems like the brutally honest “tears of envy”. The effect is one of undisturbed beauty.

Holt’s vocal delivery is likewise restrained. His voice is distinct but mild by nature, and here he withholds decoration to focus firmly on craft. The tune is beautifully detailed, with Holt himself performing almost everything. It’s a joy to listen to each tiny layer as it builds a coherent whole.

What makes The Wedding  so exciting is Holt’s musical vocabulary. His influences are so internalized that the allusions seem effortless. It’s no easy feat to write a song that’s both instantly familiar and authentic, but James Holt is a songwriter who knows the language of pop and has made it his own. The Wedding is a pop song that knows where it came from, but with a soft lushness that is uniquely now.