After a brilliant run of EPs, James Blake returns with an album that tilts toward traditional songwriting while refining his unique approach to production. When dubstep boomed and shuddered from Croydon at the dawn of the last decade, Blake wasn't yet a teenager. Barrow, on the other hand, was almost 40 and already on hiatus from one of the previous decade's most influential bands. He'd heard the rise of dubstep-- its cavernous bass, quick-click rhythms, bent vocal hooks-- and the tall, plaid-wearing kid from Enfield must have sounded a lot like its populist fall. Barrow's dismissal of Blake is, presumably, a defense of dubstep-- the gesture suggests a purist, an elitist, or both. Reconsidered from the other artistic end, however, the implication is that maybe this is the decade where singer-songwriters-- longtime wastrels of pianos and six-strings with three chords-- finally get interesting, manipulating their pretty little voices and best love songs for something more than plain ballads and pleas. In that case, Barrow is right about Blake's full-length debut. Composed of tender torch songs, elegiac drifters, and soulful melodies, Blake's first puts him in the rare company of fellow singers-- Thom Yorke, Karin Dreijer, Antony Hegarty, Justin Vernon, Dan Bejar-- who've recently bent their own lavish voices, not samples, to make interesting pop music shaped with electronics. These songs are bigger than the defense of any microgenre, and, chances are, they'll soon make Blake a star.
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James Blake is the debut studio album by London -based electronic music producer James Blake. The album was released to widespread critical acclaim, and was nominated for the Mercury Prize. All three EPs have differing musical styles. In interviews about the album, Blake cited fellow Londoners the xx as an influence, telling Clash ' s Robin Murray their success with debut xx "made it a lot easier for me". Blake, speaking to Jo Youle and Mark Savage of the BBC , said that a lot of the vocals on the album were by him, despite relying more heavily on samples in previous work.
James Blake is really imprisoning me, and seemingly the entire blogosphere, at the moment. For good reason, the EPs alone would have been enough to tide people over for a while, and they might have. Then his debut album prematurely leaked all over the interwebs. Where Blake barely even used his own vocals on his string of EPs, he propels his voice above the dust, introducing another element to the spooked-out mix: coherent lyrics. As he bellows, anguish and heartbreak drip from. This is, by most standards, a soul record. One that, while almost entirely digital in nature even the vocals are fed through digitized effects and sustained by Auto-Tune and enhancers , seeps passion from the production to the computerized pipes. They sound patchy, oddly cut, and perfectly offbeat, recalling Burial.
It couldn't have wished for more support. He had already released a string of singles on tiny independents, but this one had major-label muscle behind it: where once Blake's singles shared space on the release schedules with Claptrap by Joe, Blimey by Ramadanman and Untold's No One Likes a Smart Arse, now he found himself the labelmate of Welsh MOR songbird Duffy. The track was all over Radio 1 for weeks. It sounds like the classic overhyped sales disaster, but rather than asking why the single failed to take off as you might have expected, it seems more pertinent to ask exactly how Blake ended up burdened with any commercial expectations in the first place.