Singer-songwriter James Raftery releases a brand-new album, Tornado, a collection of songs amalgamating piano ballads and synthesized orchestrations.
Raftery began piano at age 5, followed by studying classical piano into his teens. He put music on the back burner to go into acting, starring in the horror movie, Night Owl. Later, he returned to music, picking up a guitar which led to writing songs. As Rat Wakes Red, he released three albums, two EPs, and three videos.
Moving to New York, he set up a home studio, followed by recording and releasing music under his own name. 2017 saw him drop Everything, an album utilizing only synths and beats, along with two videos. During the pandemic lockdown, he came across some piano fragments. Taking them, he began working on Tornado, which he describes as “a return to form of sorts.”
According to Raftery, “During lockdown, I rescued a recording of a set of piano songs I had been working on before Everything, all in various states of completion. I had forgotten how to play any of it, but I loved them and wanted to finish, so I set to work re-learning, writing and recording them from May 2020-March 2021. I was alone in my studio and had nothing but time and a long winter. It was a refuge and release in the midst of many storms.”
Encompassing nine tracks, Tornado begins with “Gardener,” traveling on a gentle, elegant piano backed by rising filaments of orchestral tones. Raftery’s voice, soft and velvety, imbues the lyrics with sumptuous textures.
Highlights include “Sideways Stare,” vaguely reminiscent of The Alan Parsons Project covered by Styx, stripped down to little more than a sparkling piano and tender vocals. “Wonderful Always,” rolls out on graceful piano tones embellished by flute-like tendrils of color, giving the tune delicate currents of dimension. Floating on gossamer timbres, Raftery’s voice imbues the lyrics with quiet quixotic flavors.
The intro to “You And I” glides forth on warm colors as fluid strings infuse the harmonic flow with sinuous surfaces. The title track closes the album, radiating opulent trickling aromas from the piano, embroidered by the swelling tones of a French horn.
Lying somewhere between a religious revelation and romantic sonnets, Tornado delivers tantalizing wisps of sonic beauty, soothing and latent with warm hues.