James Bay, "Chaos and the Calm" (Republic)
This British singer-songwriter has hit on a formula that makes Grammy voters swoon and critics of a certain age take notice. At 24, he celebrates an older style of music. On this debut, he wears his love of '70s rockers on his rolled-up sleeves. The Bruce Springsteen influence is evident in his more acoustic material, where his full, raspy voice is strongest. He swaggers his way through "Craving." There's some "Rumours"-era Fleetwood Mac touches on the likable "If You Ever Want to Be in Love." At the top of his vocal range, Bay sounds like John Waite from the Babys and of "Missing You" fame, especially on "Collide" and "Let It Go." Bay is at his best when he combines those two worlds, such as on the wrenching "Scars," where he applies Waite-like howls to a rocker filled with Springsteen-ish details. Overall, Bay sounds completely familiar, and that may be his biggest struggle.
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
Commissioned by Carnegie Hall for the 2014 Ecstatic Music Festival, Missy Mazzoli's "Vespers for a New Dark Age" is a haunting suite with ominous religious undertones. tinyurl.com/qy598hk