James Blake: James Blake

Why don’t you call me what we both know I am
– “Why Don’t You Call Me?”

An album that was on seemingly every best-of-2011 list, something on it once caught my ear on shuffle, so it ended up in my to-review queue.  I didn’t get much more out of it than that; it’s still just kind of ear-catchy, not something I really want to spend a lot of time with. That’s not, however, due to a lack of depth.  Quite the contrary, this is an exceptionally rich album in terms of timbre, rhythms, and bloopy-bleepy song construction.

This album is simultaneously really good at setting a mood as background music and being really interesting to listen to attentively.  It’s just that it’s not really something to listen to when you’re doing the things I do when I listen to music, which right now is basically walking, driving, and working.  Rather, this is more coming-down-from-a-rave-at-6 AM music, where your head is able to simultaneously be in the place of paying super close attention but also only being able to treat everything as a background event.  You need to kind of sneak up on this music, and I think chemicals might be able to help with that.  This would also really work as a movie score.

Before I’d heard this album I don’t think I could have imagined music that sounded quite like this: so layered, dense, unconventional, tricky, and complex yet at the same time immediately accessible and super laid back.  And then beyond that, it’s also executed perfectly.  And for all that, I really want to rate it highly.  But as far as being enjoyable, it’s more of an intellectual and curiosity-piquing enjoyment rather than a visceral or pleasant feeling.  My gut says this is three clowns, but my inner critic’s inner critic says at least four.  I can’t find a rating I don’t have reservations about, so let’s just go with 3.5 clowns and move on to the next thing to review.

Rating:
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Keep: “Unluck,” “The Wilhelm Scream,” “To Care (Like You),” “Why Don’t You Call Me?,” “I Mind”
Like:
“I Never Learnt To Share,” “Lindisfarne II,” “Limit To Your Love,” “Give Me My Month,” “Measurements”

Track Notes:

  1. Unluck – quiet, with some muffled explosion sounds.
  2. The Wilhelm Scream – the hit.
  3. I Never Learnt To Share – “My brother and my sister/Don’t speak to me/But I don’t blame them.”  This is so compelling at first, but it really doesn’t stand up to repeat listenings, it really gets annoying.  The climax with about 70-80 seconds left is amazing.  This song is so maddening because the last half, or at least the last 90 seconds, is flipping incredible.  But it’s torture to get through the “brother and sister” part at the beginning.  Like.
  4. Lindisfarne I -incredibly sparse.
  5. Lindisfarne II – Flows right into this out of last one.
  6. Limit To Your Love – This may have been the one that caught my ear that has me listening to this now.
  7. Give Me My Month –
  8. To Care (Like You) – Has some great parts, but the title part is filthy disturbing.  Takes a while to get going, but once it does it’s pretty sweet.
  9. Why Don’t You Call Me? – Really like this.  At least the start.  It’s only like 90 seconds, though.
  10. I Mind – Very dense.
  11. Measurements – Kinda languid, you really have to be in the right mood for this.  Like is a stretch here, but okay.  Also bizarre in that it doesn’t resolve, ends on the dominant or something, just ends, very unsettling.
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3 thoughts on “James Blake: James Blake

  1. I was waiting to hear him actually singing. Track 6, the one that caught your ear, is where it actually happens. Felt a bit like listening to Frampton on the talk box, but the keyboard version. Cute for a minute, but for entire songs? Pass.

    • Thanks for the feedback. I probably have a more liberal definition of singing than you do, but good to know why it doesn’t work for you. Sometimes I envy being able to make quick judgments on things.

  2. Pingback: Four Tet: Beautiful Rewind | fatclown

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