James Blake was number two on BBC’s Sound of 2011 List. This is one of few lists for up and coming artists I ever pay attention too because usually, for better or worse, it’s right. James Blake is no exception.
Now from the start James Blake is not for everyone or as mainstream as the number one on the list, Jessie J. Instead Blake contributes to the growing genre of dubstep and electro influenced mellow pop music, too be honest, I’m not sure how to describe it. Artists to compare Blake to are the xx, jj, and some of Bon Iver’s work. A major inspiration in this underground electronic movement in Britain is R&B samples, think of jj’s beautiful mixtape, or the love of Cassie. Blake also has used samples in his music, sometimes clearly, sometimes more discreetly. The EPs released by James show the progression from more sample-oriented works, like on CMYK, to the less-clear sampling of the debut album. The vocals take much more of the center stage on the LP, even covering “Limit to Your Love” by Feist with Blake’s vocals being clear and untampered with. Other songs have his voice altered and autotuned like in the Bon Iver “Woods”-sounding, “Lindefarne I”.
The album, although slow and could even be depressing, still keeps the listeners attention with the different uses of vocals, samples, and inspirations. Jazz, r&b, soul, electronic, and dubstep, are just some of the genres that can be heard getting mixed into the gooey, sexy, sad, genius album. James Blake is continuing to grow on me and new secrets will be discovered about the album as it gets repeated plays. At first listen, Blake’s vocals may be off-putting, but they grow on listeners, the soul, the atmosphere, and grit only benefit the album’s sonically compelling and entrancing sounds.
James Blakes has created an album that is yet to fit into a certain musical area, the genres used are numerous, what is clear is the sound of Blake’s debut is that it takes the listener to Blake’s own world, where Feist, r&b, electronica, and more can be melted together into a soundscape, both fake and digital, but also organic and rich.