I discovered James Blake only a few years ago, I hope you won’t hold that against me for the rest of the article. What made me like his music was his lyricism, it was his way of confessing things in his songs as if it was his therapist. A sort of musical therapy. In order to celebrate the release of his 5th album called “Friends that break your heart”, I thought I could do a quick retrospective on his music.
James Blake’s first album, named after him, was released 10 years ago. It’s in 2011 that the 23 YO artist back then drops his first album. He was already someone in the music industry, he worked for huge artists such as Jay Z, Beyoncé, or Frank Ocean. It allowed him to make his own spot in this industry. He mixes dubstep’s codes to R&B’s or electro’s to create a one of a kind alternative music that will soon become his DNA.
Overgrown is released a year later after his first album, the artist works non-stop. This time, James Blake offers us a more fragmented and ethereal composition. He likes long pauses, silences. Just like his first album, we listen to a mix of dubstep and soul, I’m thinking about his sensual and hypnotic single Retrograde. We start to notice his brand.
AN IMPRESSIVE EVOLUTION
“The Colour in Anything” is released in 2016, 2 years after the latest album of the singer, letting him more time to experiment with his music. Even though he experiments, he knows perfectly what he’s doing and offers us a musical patchwork. He comes back with and album mixing pop electro and R&B to create melancholic melodies. James Blake deals with loneliness and lost love. It’s quite a complex album.
In “Assume Form” there’s something new, something good. Probably because James Blake sings about a universal subject : love. He sings for Jameela Jamil, with whom he shares his life. She’ll help him co-produce and co-write some songs on his next album : “Friends That Break Your Heart”. He’s a new man, changed by love. He analyses his ego, insecurities and his need of becoming better. There’s something really sweet in the harmonies, I’m thinking about “Lullaby for My Insomniac” where we find a gospel chant. There’s also something new, he tries Trap, notably in his song with Travis Scott, and it’s working just fine. To me, this album is a 10/10, it is the most complete and experimental work he has done.
FRIENDS THAT BREAK YOUR HEART, A BEAUTIFUL ALBUM
Friends That Break Your Heart is a different kind of post-breakup album. The title shows that the singer wanted to sing about broken and ending friendships. We all know how much it can hurt to lose a friend, he himself says “it hurts like the end of the world” in his single with SZA. But it’s more than that. It’s also an album about our self-esteem, and I think it’s his most approchable and relatable album yet. In terms of music, it’s still alternative with reworked ballads, and mostly vocal harmonies very melancholic. I think it’s his most beautiful ablum. There’s a certain beauty in his songs. After Assume Form and Friends That Break Your Heart, I feel like the artist really embraces his music.
Written by Elena Gaudé.