When I first heard James Blake I was heavily into dubstep and electronica and his unique, ghostly yet heavy and sad tunes mixed with piano, erratic bass lines and synthesizers were a more than welcome addition to my collection of music. His first self-titled debut album seemed to be an experimentation of sorts, with covers and remixed tunes – a show of skills that kinda said, “Hey, look what I can do.” His second album that is soon to come out is nothing like that.
“Overgrown” will be out April 9th and shows definite growth in style and skill. It’s an album of love and longing with heavy synths, the same ghostly vocals, fractures, loops, twists and natural progressions. It is an album more lyrically focused as opposed to his first album that had songs like “I Never Learnt to Share” which had one phrase repeated throughout. His lyrics are as lonely as the beats he produces. The pre-released song Retorgrade starts, “You’re on your own/ in a world you’ve grown/ few more years to go/ don’t let the hurdle fall/ so be the girl you loved.” He’s also collaborated with other artists for the production of this album. He worked with Kanye West and Justin Vernon, Brian Eno and NZA of the Wu Tang Clan. “DLM” (Don’t Let Me) is the lightest of all the songs on the track – a more soulful piece of music – and one thats accompanied purely by piano and background vocals. Its faintly reminiscent of “A Case of You” from his earlier album. However the rest of the album is clearly a departure from the songs of his last album that were lighter, fractured and experimental. Overgrown is a concentrated album of bold bass lines, percussions and vocals. It’s clear that his style and knowledge of what he’s capable of has developed and matured.
In Overgrown, it seems that James Blake has opened up more dialogue with his listeners opposed to the few whispered phrases of his first album. He speaks out more about love, about what it means to be in love, and how it feels to lose and heal from lost love. It’s definitely a more eerie and, at first glance, darker album than his last. But listening to the album, it becomes obvious, towards the last song, “Our Love Comes Back” that this is an album of victory and joy for re-discovered love.
Overgrown seems to show just how far James Blake has come in terms of his musical ability. It’s a darker album for sure, and one that is definitely no longer an experimentation but a showcase of skill and style. I wouldn’t label it as easy-listening as his self-titled debut was, because this is an album that demands your attention and focus and theres a fullness and completeness that wasn’t there in his earlier songs.
This album is definitely a masterpiece and more than ever a confirmation that Blake is one producer to watch out for and he’s far from finished.
2. I am Sold
3. Life Round Here
4. Take a Fall for Me
7. Digital Lion
9. To the Last
10. Our Love Comes Back