Sunday, January 1, 2012


One of the most forward-looking releases of 2011, baby-faced UK producer James Blake's debut recombines elements of electronica, dubstep, R&B, and autotuned vocals into an altogether new, minimalist, ice-cold stew that has quickly emerged as a signature touchstone of the burgeoning experimental soul movement.

But regardless of how "of the moment" this record is, or as influential and important as its skeletal compositions will likely one day be perceived, I cannot say I am the biggest of fans.

Is it original?  No question!

Is it inventive? Without doubt!

Do I enjoy it or even respect it as a whole? Not so much.

My primary gripe is despite how unique much of this record sounds, I'm not sure all of its material is that consistently or aggressively thought through.

It's as if midway through completing this record and his best songs, Blake realized that because his airy, negative space concoctions sound so strikingly different, he didn't need to bring his remaining musical ideas to fruition, any randomly weirded-up noodling would do, and that was the path he took to close out the album in full.

The tracks that do feel like they've been fully worked over...the widely praise The Wilhelm Scream, the two part Lindisfarne sequence, the Feist cover Limit To Your Love, and the album's most experimental track To Care (Like You)...are undeniably fascinating, if sometimes too odd and cold to be emotionally engaging, but I found much of the rest of the material, particularly the brutal three song sequence that closes the album, to be downright squirm inducing.

So just a mild recommend from me on James Blake.

Those who like to keep current with the front lines of forward-looking pop should definitely give it a try... and everyone should check out The Wilhelm Scream...but if you're looking for a genuinely satisfying full-length listen, even if your tastes verge toward the arty, I'd consider giving James Blake a pass.

Status: Mild Recommend.

Cherry Picker's Best Bets: The Wilhelm Scream, Lindisfarne II, Limit To Your Love, To Care (Like You).

Here's the official video for The Wilhelm Scream.

Component Breakdown:
1. Unluck - 7
2. The Wilhelm Scream - 9
3. I Never Learnt To Share - 7
4. Lindisfarne I - 6
5. Lindisfarne II - 8
6. Limit To Your Love - 8
7. Give Me My Month - 6
8. To Care (Like You) - 8
9. Why Don't You Call Me - 5
10. I Mind - 4
11. Measurements - 6
Intangibles - Low

Listen on Spotify!
Buy on I-Tunes

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