If you’ve been wondering where James Blake has been, it’s where he’s always been: in a world of reclusive reverberating territory intricately populated by synths, stirring strings, electronic undertones, and exquisitely gnarled emotions that swirl from a sound of vanguard sentiment.
Despite the hike in spare, sonic landscapes that have populated much of experimental artists' efforts since the release of Blake's self-titled debut in 2011, the moody maven has risen furiously above them over his years removed and laid the groundwork to stand apart from his peers. His second album Overgrown earned him the Mercury Music Prize and, since then, he’s collaborated with top-tier musicians, Chance The Rapper, Frank Ocean, Bon Iver and, most recently, Beyoncé—all while gently teasing his own new tracks via his BBC Radio 1 residency show.
His third album, The Colour In Anything, sees his trademark introversion in the context of a static connection between sublime melodies and endless fluid production, and it's pinged an all-time plateau. The album's mix of familiar yearning with a bit of uncanny dystopian direction reveals that he’s far more subtly implied than we’d all assume at first listen. Finally breaking his silence, and essentially climbing out of his graceful safe haven, you quickly realize that through a narrative of therapeutic piano ballads, he’s right where he’s supposed to be.
Here’s a handful of our favorite lucid tracks below.
"Radio Silence": With piano tinkles layered over an abrasive brink of production, and over a repeating synth, Blake coos, "There’s a radio silence going on." Intended as the title track for the album, a jokey nod to his absence, the intro record carries a magical evocative power that sets you cruising through the entire project.
"Timeless": According to Blake, this is the track he wanted Kanye West featured on, but "the verse didn’t materialize," he told Annie Mac on BBC Radio 1 last night. As strong as it would have been for 'Ye to slide into the track with his boisterous flow, the simplicity says so much. "I can't be selfless / I'm acting my age," the 27-year-old UK crooner sings.
"Waves Know Shores": "I suggest you love like love's no loss," Blake advises on this brass yet elegant piece. It’s the mournful trumpet cushioning soft vocals that, in a sense, give you the feeling of waves beautifully colliding to flow as one.
"The Colour In Anything": "I can't always help you / But I can listen for the sounds you're making / And how I loved your story / How I wanted to follow you and paint it," he admits on the sparse piano ballad, painting a picture of a man who is complete with admiration and adoration, yet lacking a sense of fulfillment or will to power through. "You must not be looking / You must not be trying like I'm trying / I can't always help you,” he ends the lamenting title track.