Whenever I put on a record for the first time, I desperately want to be wowed by it. I want to be filled with the adrenalin of finding a new favorite thing in the whole world. No one puts on a record and expects to be disappointed, or hate it — we all want to fall in love. The reason that we try new records out, instead of staying with the old tried and true favorites, is for that off chance that we will fall in love and create a new favorite. Sure, sometimes there is disappointment, but now and again something extraordinary comes along that is immediately put on heavy rotation. When I put on James Blake’s (@jamesblake) self titled debut, I fell in love.
Blake’s buzz had been building for a while before the release of his debut album. His EP and cover of Feists’ “Limit to Your Love” gained attention from seemingly every music blog on the great wide web — and when buzz is that deafening it necessitates a look. The young Mr. Blake, with his world-weary voice and capability to create simple, beautiful tracks, immediately impressed me. He writes beautiful music, the kind of music that makes you fall in love.
It’s the kind of love I experienced with Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago and the kind that I know will follow me through winters and nights for years to come. It’s the kind that will be there for a very long time. James Blake sounds a lot like Bon Iver, but instead of the haunting acoustic guitar, there is a haunting electronic pulse. It’s a delicate, well thought out record that is the product of true craftsmanship. The songs melt into each other, each perfectly complementing what came before and what comes after. Poignant and gut wrenching in their simplicity and all carried by Blake’s clear, shattering voice, the tracks on the album all demand instant love and adoration.
The slow climaxes of “Unluck” and “The Wilhem Scream” give way to sullen beauties like “Lindisfarne I and II.” Through a combination of delicate piano laden tracks, a stunningly stark voice, brilliant looping and distortion and near perfect production, James Blake creates a record that you will keep with you for a long, long time. It’s obvious that Blake comes from a background of production. The lyrics are simple and repetitive — used more as a vessel for the sounds than anything else.
It’s the light electronic production that makes this record the beauty that it is. For instance, the slow build to static shock on “I Never Learnt to Share”, starting with an lone voice and ending with an onslaught of noise, creates a musical catharsis that is rarely experienced. This is not a record of singles, but instead a whole piece of music best experienced in one sitting. There are not songs to put on mixes, just a whole beautiful collection.
It’s not only an extraordinary achievement for a 23 year old’s debut record, but an extraordinary achievement for any musician in general. This type of beauty is normally seen from those who have years of experience under their belts, and these tracks create the impression that Blake has lived a long life.
James Blake’s debut LP is the kind of record that only comes around once in a short while, the kind that will hopefully change the direction of a sub-genre of music, and the kind that will be around for a long, long time.
From The Wild Honey Pie, 2/23/2011: http://www.thewildhoneypie.com/james-blakes-self-titled-lp/