Written Before Listen
James Blake is back. I’m not going to pretend like I was a huge James Blake fan, to begin with, but his self-titled debut was a unique blend of garage, r&b, art-pop, and dubstep that was like nothing else…well other than maybe The Weeknd. James Blake is also a skilled producer with an eclectic music taste has he got the co-sign from people like Andre 3000 and Brian Eno. With that being said, I wonder what this new album has in store for us because it’s been a decade since that album was released. I wonder how much his sound has changed over that time, there’s only one way to find out.
James Blake can create some really interesting soundscapes when he can. His production is always drenched in euphoric soundscapes, lush chord progressions, and drum machine drums. On “Life Is Not The Same”, TakeADaytrip fits James’ vibe perfectly with the trap drums, emotional piano chords, and deep sub-bass. On “Frozen”, James Blake creates a very vaporized version of a trap song as it’s a great rap beat for the features to go on. “Say What You Will” and “Famous Last Words” are great in similar ways. They’re both melancholic but they’re also dramatically dense. Overall, James Blake remains to be a producer at heart, which is never a bad thing.
James Blake has always been a melancholic songwriter. This time around, he takes that to extremes as he focuses on topics like love and romance but also lack of loyalty. In his own words, “Funeral” is about “how it feels not to be heard, and to worry that people have given up on you”. On “Lost Angel Nights” and “If I’m Insecure”, he seems to be talking about his fears and insecurities co-aligning. Other than that, some topics do seem kind of vague or unclear, but luckily that’s only an occasion.
James Blake is considered an Art Pop/Indie R&B artist. On his debut, he did experiment with singer/songwriter music as well as dubstep, but this time around, he dabbles in more accessible sounds. I’ll say right now that stylistically, I thought James Blake was a little overrated. I appreciated his music and truly liked some of his songs, but I never saw him as impactful as contemporaries. Unfortunately, James Blake does stay middle ground for the most part. The more Soulful Pop tracks are nothing more than ballads and the hip hop influences in R&B are getting redundant. It’s hard to say, but James Blake is just getting more predictable than he already was.
When it comes to James Blake, he might be more known for his collaborations than his actual music. That’s why he brought features on his previous album. Artists such as Travis Scott, Metro Boomin, Andre 3000, and Rosalia all came to contribute to Blakes 2019 album. This time around, he keeps the list a little less known. Except for JID and SZA, I didn’t know the features. SwaVay is with JID on the song “Frozen” as he murders it. Monica Martin appears on” Show Me” and I forget everything about it. When it comes to the features by themselves, most of them are good, but some I didn’t even realize were there.
Other than the predictability factor and inconsistent features, I have one major gripe. This album is tiring. A lot of the relatability is taken away by the over-manipulated vocals and the digital instruments. If I wanted to listen to this, I could just listen to House of Balloons and Kid A. With that being said, This is a good album with some good tracks, but it does come off as sleepy.
Honestly, what more is there to say? The album is enjoyable. I liked it and enjoyed a good amount of songs. I think it didn’t get TOO overbearing and the ballads and bangers do separate from each other pretty well. It’s a good album, with some good songwriting, great production, and decent standout quality.