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James Blake

James Blake - 2011

The self titled debut full length from James Blake is not an album that I'm recommending to you. Don't get me wrong, I think it's brilliant and obviously I think it's one of the best albums of the year. I won't recommend it because it's not for everybody. It's a challenging album that's unlike anything I've ever heard before. The sounds on the album are from the dub step/trip hop genre, which I know almost nothing about. I am a fan of Portishead, (dummy is one of my favorite albums of the 90's), but that's about where my trip hop knowledge ends. Blake's songs ignore the traditional verse-chorus-verse confines. Some songs have only a few lyrics. The entirety of the "I Never Learnt to Share" lyrics are, "My brother and my sister don't speak to me, but I don't blame them." The lyrics are repeated over and over. Blake's voice is manipulated, pushing and pulling at the tone repeatedly. There's a certain freedom in the lack of verses. Repeating the one lyric over and over forces the listener to re-examine it and really think about each word. Most artists let the lyrics fly by, often times making the listener miss the subtlety of the message. I can't decide whether Blake is a brilliant storyteller, or a lousy one. Maybe he can't write long verses and is limited to squeezing the life out of one line? Either way his style is unique, and that's where he alienates listeners. More than anything about "James Blake", what does it for me is the emotion that is pored into electronic music. Usually an album by a British DJ throws up a red flag for me. Coming from years of loving rock, blues, and jazz artists, I am used to a certain amount of "heart" being poured into my favorite music. The nature of the ones and zeros used to create most electronic music tends to sound robotic and inanimate. Blake's self titled debut is anything but.

Posted by Tambe



Posted: 04/28/2013

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Tambe ranks this as the
#3 favorite album of 2011