Best songs: Radio Silence, Modern Soul, Choose Me, Noise Above Our Heads, I Need a Forest Fire.
James Blake is an artist I’ve liked for a very long time, he’s been through it all: my pop phase, my indie phase, my dnb phase, my trap phase (let’s forget about that one ay…) he’s always been number one on my list of musicians, regardless of whether he was releasing music at the time or not.
What I love about James Blake is his use of his own voice, so many electronic music producers have to rely on vocalists, but Blake’s hauntingly beautiful voice appears on most if not all of his songs allowing him to really make an identity quite unique in the world of electronic music.
In December 2014 he revealed his album would be called Radio Silence and it would be out ‘in about 4 months’ ironically throughout the whole of 2015 we pretty much had radio silence from Blake, no record, no new songs and few live shows.
Early this year, songs startled to trickle through. Blake played Modern Soul and Timeless on his Radio 1 residency and announced that his album was finished in April ’16, but still no sign of a release date… until the beginning of May when James Blake billboards created by the wonderful Quentin Blake (no relation) appeared around London and New York, signalling an imminent release.
On 5th May Blake appeared on Annie Mac’s Radio 1 show to reveal two new songs: Radio Silence (the original title track) and I Need a Forest Fire featuring Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and casually dropped in that the record would be called The Colour In Anything and would be released “in a few hours time” FINALLY!
The Colour In Anything, released on Polydor Records, is a 17 track record featuring Bon Iver with tracks written by Frank Ocean and 7 of the 17 tracks co-produced by Rick Rubin in the famous Shangri La studios, but no sign of the rumoured Kanye collaboration or the 18th 20-minute track he mentioned on his radio show.
Nevertheless, the record is wonderfully atmospheric and emotive, moving away slightly from the post-dubstep persona Blake created in his earlier career (Although it creeps back in Put That Away And Talk To Me).
The pitch shift of his vocals on a number of tracks creates layers and gives the impression of multiple vocalists, however personally I don’t like the auto-tuned vocals present in Meet You In The Maze in particular and others, it seems too amateur for him and I just don’t think his voice needs it and it has much more of an impact without such distortion.
His vocals are shown off beautifully in A Noise Above Our Heads and in Choose Me, my favourite on the album with the juxtaposition of Blake’s emotional, pained vocals over lively electronic beats. Other favourites of mine include the soulful Radio Silence and Modern Soul.
I Hope My Life – 1-800 Mix is the most up-beat song and the closest he gets to a club track, the song is mixed by Blake’s record label/collective 1-800 dinosaur consisting of DJ and producers Dan Foat, Airhead, Mr Assister and Klaus.
The Bon Iver/James Blake collaboration produces a standout song on the album I Need A Forest Fire, it’s playful and melodic with their voices blending together like a dream.
The title track is a gorgeous piano ballad, reminiscent of his Joni Mitchell cover A Case of You on his first album, although doesn’t quite reach the same level of beauty and emotion as the aforementioned does.
Lyrically the album is poignant and melancholy at times ‘it’s sad that you’re no longer here’ in Points and ‘Don’t use the word, forever, we live too long to be so loved’ in f.o.r.e.v.e.r. and that’s just a couple of examples, but that’s the James Blake we know and love. He said himself in an interview with The Guardian – “I’ve subdued a generation. That will be my legacy.”
Blake has also stated that the album tells the story of what he’s gone through in the past 3 years and it includes experiences that a huge amount of people, especially those in their 20’s can relate to: experiences of love, loss, career anxiety, lack of motivation, insecurity, life and love life dissatisfaction .
Overall, I think the 76 minute long record is poetic, alluring and the perfect musical diary from the past three years of Blake’s life and personally I think it’s brilliant to have him back and I can’t wait to see him at various festivals over the summer.