Some people call his work empty and lazy, with repetitive lyrics and riffs, and others call it epic and meaningful. There is no doubt, however, that James Blake’s debut album get’s you thinking.
For those unfamiliar with Blake, he is a Goldsmiths graduate who began his musical career recording songs in his bedroom. His sound could be described as dubstep, but not in the traditional sense. Blake’s songs have dubstep beats and rhythms, but those beats are much softer and are kept in the background in comparison to artists like Magnetic Man or Chase and Status. Blake’s work is much more soulful, yet is still experimental.
It takes a couple of plays of the album to peel back the layers and really get into the sound of James Blake. Give Me My Month is a beautiful introduction to the album, with a gentle emotive piano riff.
I Never Learnt To Share is definitely the standout track. With the sole lyric, ‘My brother and my sister don’t speak to me but I don’t blame them,’ it is simple and repetitive, but it’s also hauntingly stunning. A song clearly aimed at Blake’s peers, I Never Learnt To Share wouldn’t sound out of place on an episode of Skins.
The remix of Feist’s Limit To Your Love is another track worth noting. The stripped-back accompaniment of simply voice and piano, or voice and drum beat, is spine-tingling. Rumoured next single Wilhelm’s Scream is in the same vein, with eerie harmonies and a radio-friendly sound.
From the first play Blake’s music sounds lazy and distorted, but play it again and you realise that Blake is actually communicating most of his emotion through the music rather than the lyrics.
All in all, each track seems to merge seamlessly into the next, which I think is the mark of a good album. Each song is different enough so as not to be branded as bland and same-y, but similar enough that the whole album can be played without any obvious tracks to skip.
Bottom line: James Blake is the perfect soundtrack for a reflective Sunday afternoon.