It’s a pleasure to see artists flourish and find their own way and sound. That Joe Payne has been working on his debut solo album for some time, and it is finally getting ready to release on August 7th. “By Name. By Nature.” is proving itself a magnificent start for an artist that may have infinite potential.
I’ve been following Joe Payne for several years now. You may recognize him as the vocalist for The Enid from 2011-2016. He was part of four albums with them, and I reviewed “Dust” back in 2016. One thing I always noted was that Joe seemed held back by the band format, especially in the choral, folksy style of The Enid. I don’t like to wish for band members to leave their respective bands, but I sort of hoped that Joe would find a way to release music that would unleash his amazing voice and unique personality.
“By Name. By Nature.” does exactly that. While you may notice some of the choral aspects of The Enid are present here, the musical style includes hefty doses of theater, pop, prog rock, and singer/songwriter fare. Joe is really good at crafting songs with crazy structures, odd little quirks, and blazing vocal trails. There are many moments of electronic and sample vocal accenting, too, that really bring a vivid color to the record. I doubt you will hear another album like this any time soon.
To create this album, Joe handled vocals, choir, piano, strings, and other programming. He also recruited several guest musicians, including Max Read on bass, sampled vocals, and choir; Duncan McLaughlan on guitar and bass; Nicholas Willes on drums and bass; Lisa Martin on drums; Nikitas Kissonas on guitar; and Ms Amy Birks (ex-Beatrix Players) on vocals on one track. The results sound wonderful and melodic, so the talent here is solid.
One thing I’ve noticed about Joe is that his style is all his own, though you can definitely hear some influences. If I had to guess, I would look at Queen, Michael Jackson, Prince, and early 90s pop and R&B as influential to Joe’s style. Still, every song sounds a little different, and he isn’t afraid to try some crazy vocal theatrics just to get the roller coaster moving. I should mention here that I think Joe has some of the best vocals I’ve ever heard from any genre.
Every song is wonderful, but I have some favorites. Those would be “Nice Boy”, “What Is the World Coming To”, “Love (Not the Same)”, and “End of the Tunnel”. “Nice Boy reminds me so much of an early 90s tune. It has a crazy tenor chorus, but a funky rhythm and beat that makes me want to watch The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I love that song. “What Is the World Coming To” is a more sober offering. It’s one of those songs with such melody and weight that you could imagine it on stage in a packed theater on Broadway. The ending is a rising, glorious climax that always leaves me breathless.
“Love (Not the Same)” is the track that features Amy Birks. You may remember my review for her own solo album earlier this year. Anyways, this is a truly outstanding song. The first half is mostly Joe singing and pining about love, with some obvious influence from Tina Turner’s famous song, “What’s Love Got to Do With It”. It flusters and emotes until Amy joins. At first, she is only talking, but I love the transition from her spoken word into her wonderful vocals. From there, the song knows no boundaries, and is a thrill to hear.
The final track on the album, before the bonus tracks anyways, is “End of the Tunnel”. This track is mostly keys and orchestrations, with Joe’s voice playing up against a foggy, spacey background. I can’t get enough of this song, I must say. It has a simple, yet effective hook in the chorus, and Joe sounds phenomenal. It has a touch of melancholy, which you won’t find much of on this record, and it is simply a perfect conclusion.
That Joe Payne is here to stay. “By Name. By Nature.” is a fabulous and ambitious debut that really leaves a mark. I see huge potential in Joe, both in his immense voice and in his eccentric songwriting. In that way, this album is as “progressive” as anything else out there, and I think Joe can easily win fans with this one.
Find That Joe Payne online: