365 new albums every year, however tedious, bears truly original artists and albums that demand intimate listening and provide goosebumps and tears in return, James Blake is perhaps the most wonderful example of this. As modern music is a basic amalgam of all that came before it, I find the hardest thing to do is to describe it in less than five genres. Singer/Songwriter, Soul, R&B, Electronic, Indie, seem to be what people want to call James Blake. I’ve always swallowed Blake’s music with a heavier weight, something about the unapologetic originality and weirdness accompanied by his angelic vocals. James began in 2009 with a 12” album that consisted of a handful of bedroom recordings. By 2010 Blake refined his sound with the studio E.P. “CMYK” containing the sub woofer work out track “Limit To Your Love” originally written by Feist. In early February 2011 Blake released his first self-titled studio album, this is where I became a fan. This album consists of classically trained pianist doing fragmented electronica, prominent use of minimalism, and a voice that sends shivers down my spine. October 2011 Blake released a 6 track EP “Enough Thunder” featuring Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, and Joni Mitchell. April 2013 Blake released his second studio album entitled “Overgrown”, a more diverse, dynamic and digestible album, that David Bowie called his favorite album of the year, Featuring RZA and Brian Eno. LP3 came in May 2016 “The Colour In Anything” was Blake’s longest and most ambitious project top date. James received additional production help on this album from Rick Rubin and Justin Vernon, which wasn’t the case in his previous releases. “The Colour In Anything” is wonderful journey if you have 76 minutes, and a willing and patient ear, THIS ALBUM IS DEEP.
Assume Form came as a surprise with only a week announcement prior to the release. The album opens with a piano driven titled track that touches down on his roots as an artist, but reminds us that we’re hearing a new album with a fresh perspective. The second cut “Mile High” drives the party with a futuristic bass line, heavy piano synth, and creative use of autotune, featuring additional vocals from Travis Scott, and production from Metro Boomin.. The third track on the album “Tell Them” Features the sweet vocal and sound style of Moses Sumney, and the strange and unusual dance these two do as artists. “Into The Red” follows as a heart-warming romance that takes it time, and alludes to the fact that critics can no longer label Blake a sad boy. Spanish pop artist Rosalia joins Blake in the next track “Barefoot In The Park” to the ends of a glorious duet sung in both English and Spanish. Track 6 and the halfway point “Can’t Believe The Way We Flow” is a dreamy almost intermission that sews the two half's of the album together, pointing again to romance and joy. “Are You In Love?” is an exercise in synth driven minimalism and dynamics. “What’s The Catch” is another subwoofer test track, that is more beat driven than the rest of the album, fully loaded with a “heady ass verse” from Andre 3000. “I’ll Come Too” is a glitchy track with stings, that defines aspects of accompaniment in love and travels to the brink and back. The tenth cut “Power On” is an introspective song about coexistence and admitted wrongdoing, to a funky uplifting almost symphonic backdrop. “Don’t Miss It” is a return to the roots of James Blake as an artist, complete with psychedelic vocal processing, minimal piano and drums, and unexpected dynamic turns throughout the song. The album closer “Lullaby For My Insomniac” is as a moment of meditation to reintroduce you back from the heart wrenching beauty you’ve endured as a listener. This album is full of romance and hope, It’s wonderful for a person in love, or a person who is pining in need of release. I must admit it is very early in the year, but it will be hard to top this album on my favorite list. It is unique, beautiful, and carries a thoughtful heartfelt message. Assume Form vinyl ships in may, but is digitally streaming on all platforms.