James Blake‘s music has an unmistakably sobering quality to it. Having first broken into the scene with a handful of EPs, followed by his self titled release, it was the British musician’s second studio album Overgrown that effectively cemented his dewy, chilling sound.
Boxed in by this melancholy atmosphere is no sustainable place to be and perhaps that is why Blake’s third album, The Colour In Anything, finds itself extending a timid hand outside. Still just as haunting (and yes, it’s nowhere near what would be called uplifting music), it’s as if Blake opened the window — just a crack — and allowed a bit of light to stream in.
Revered for his quasi electronic trip-hop style and recognized for his defining falsetto, the album’s 17 tracks do their justice to ensure the aforementioned aspects remain front and center. Co-written in parts by the gifted Frank Ocean, the whole collection plays out like an opalescent fever dream. In a nod to his prolonged absence, “Radio Silence” starts things off. The song works well as a casting point, submerging listeners into the depth and complexity to follow. This leads to “Points,” which finds Blake matching his lush vocals with lofty trap elements and doing so rather well.
Another standout is “Put That Away And Talk To Me.” Its chords are practically glittering as Blake addresses his desire for light with heavier lines like “where is my beautiful life?” and “I want no pain anymore.” Following that, one is jolted awake by the choppy, metallic beat of “I Hope My Life,” and then transported straight to the clouds with “Waves Know Shores.” The interesting piece to consider with this song is that it serves as another touch of light. Blake’s gospel-inspired vocals and chords fit for play inside a church give off a collective hallowed feel.
Also featured is a collaboration with Bon Iver frontman, Justin Vernon, whose voice makes a luscious combination with Blake’s on “I Need A Forest Fire.” Returning back to where Blake last left off, at the piano harmonizing and layering his own vocals, is the album’s title track. Together with penultimate track, “Always” they comprise two of the most spacious soundscapes of the album, leaving ample room for Blake’s refrains.
As with the space between James Blake and Overgrown, and now to The Colour In Anything, James Blake has grown. Not necessarily grown up, but expanded. He’s added more dynamics to his sound and picked up inspiration from around him. In reaching out, he’s deftly texturized his work with light here and there. There still exist the same moody vocals and dystopian sounds but his third LP sees him experimenting with different directions. 17 songs is a hefty amount for an album, a while it doesn’t necessarily flow through from beginning to end, it reads a book of Blake’s sonic talent. Showcasing a host of styles, and executing them all with the same melancholy precision, James Blake’s sound once again stands out.
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