In a little under a year James Blake has become the critical darling of non-mainstream music fans and critics thanks to his 3 independent EPs. Now that his major label debut is here, eyes have fallen all over James’ body of work like Pam Anderson in the 90s. Next month he shares Fader’s cover with Wiz Khalifa, Pitch4k awarded it a 9.0, and the Guardian’s review at times came off like Blake was the greatest thing to happen to life since the invention of email. Of course with this praise comes expectations and assumptions that can handicap the listening experiences. Thankfully, while the album is forward thinking, it’s more accessible than some make it out to be.
Blake accentuates his already established sound with processed vocals and calculated sound engineering that tweaks the facade of songs without shaking their core. His deceptively minimalist compositions mask the multitude of influences that he breaks to pieces and partly reassembles for his dub-steppin’ Gospel electronics. His impressionist reductionist approach to repatative lyrics hover over and fill the spaces of his fractured and highly emotive rhythms. Songs seem to gasp for breath, exhale and find confidence in their brooding compunction. James’ melodies, though unique, tend to linger in the mind like a popular jingle. Overall James Blake is a good album with great moments; here are my three favorites:
THE WILHELM SCREEM: the second single seems to be the child of Sea Change era Beck enlisting the help of Sade (the band) as they ruminate over love and create a form of ambient dub. The song’s cold rainy day tenderness grows from a whisper to a restrained wail of acceptence and wonder. If some one has any sense it could define a scene or meaning of a good drama.
LINDISFARNE I / LINISFARNE II: is really one song broken into two pieces. The first part has what sounds like a cybernetic vocal detached from its body aimlessly singing through empty space looking for lover, body and revenge. In part two, the vocal finds or reconnects with what it has lost through a pulsing metronome anchoring a romantic acoustic guitar and meloncholic words. It’s the type of eerie Romanticism that ultimately leaves the head nodding and the face smiling.
LIMITS OF YOUR LOVE: the albums first single is a soaring cover of the Fiest original. It bares a kinetic earnestness through the lead piano portions only to stomp around in relief as it breaks into its choruses. The real payoff comes in the last minute where Blake channels the ghost of King Tubby into the most slapping vocal-less gangster of drums and bass found anywhere this year. It makes me wanna joyfully kick shit over just for being near me.
Ultimately, James Blake’s debut deserves an iPad with a cracked screen, a holographic image of Natalie Portman projected into ur living room, and a $50 bottle of whiskey.