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The story goes something like this, precocious young man releases slew of excellent electronic 12”s garnering the love of head nodding types before doing an about turn into whiney electro soul on debut album leaving most previous fans crestfallen but forges headlong into a kind of coffee table soul with the soul bit taken out garnering him the love of the monthlies and broadsheets nonetheless. This second album is a hell of a lot better than his debut but still has swathes of completely underwhelming navel gazing piano and wibble voiced material.
There are, however, several impressive highlights. Enjoyment of the opening title track depends on how much you are a fan of his Jamie Lidell meets Thom Yorke meets Mariah Carey voice but once you can get across the why-sing-one-note-when-you-can-sing a-million-notes vocal stylings the track is a gorgeous thing indeed, sitting somewhere in the mid point between a depressed Burial and Mark Hollis’s wonderful self-titled solo album. The latter is also in evidence on ‘I Am Sold’ a kind of quasi gospel shuffle with moments of silence bar some subtle sub bass inflections. The production is understated throughout and really needs a headphone listen to pick up all the intricate pops and samples which lay under the mix.
‘Retrograde’ is the best track on the album bar none. Blake’s music often sounds like he is half asleep but here he mixes a more upbeat rhythm with...finally...finally....a strong melody and it pays dividends. It’s good to see him stretch out vocal wise and almost tack on a pop chorus coming across like a Stevie Wonder who grew up in the digital age. It seems that Blake is doing all he can to leave his dancier side behind him but he lets his hair down on a couple of occasions in the mid part of the record ‘Digital Lion’ is one of his rare efforts to marry his earlier beat-orientated work with his later ‘serious songwriter’ schtick, it and the Justin Timberlake-cut-to-smithereens danceable grooves of ‘Voyeur’ both inject a bit of energy and a much needed clubby vibe into the proceedings.
The album has several tracks which pass by without incident, someone needs to grab him by his lovely thick hair and inform him that his talent lies more towards beat orientated material than mopey ballads. ‘DLM’ and ‘Our Love Comes Back’ exemplify this, bland turgid tortuous piano drudgery veering towards unlistenability. I’m not impressed either by the vaunted RZA collaboration ‘Take A Fall For Me’ sounding like the musical equivalent of a violent gang member being invited to to a middle class dinner party and having to be on his best behaviour. There are songs here I will never willingly listen to again but between them real moments of invention and inspiration. Maybe next time we will get more of the latter than the former.
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