Artist: James Blake
Released: April 13th, 2013
A crackling fire, hot chocolate and warm blankets on a cold day in the middle of winter – those the images that British electronic musician James Blake evokes in his sophomore album, Overgrown. Like its predecessor, Blake’s self-titled James Blake, Overgrown is introspective and creative but what the older siblings lacked in polish and overall cohesion, the younger sibling has in spades. In Overgrown, each track is like the centrepiece on a wedding table – carefully hand-sculpted in order to create precisely the kind of effect its multi-talented singer-songwriter creator had in mind. The result is an album that flows very naturally in a gentle stream of soulful melody, taking you on a journey through your own thoughts as Blake sings songs of loves lost. It is an album hauntingly beautiful in its melancholy, reminiscent at times of Radiohead in days long past; a yearning reminder that change comes for us all.
As an album, Overgrown is comprised of two halves; an incredibly powerful and moving opening salvo of songs and a relatively more tame closing sequence. Opening with the titular track, ‘Overgrown’, the first half really shows how far Blake has come since his arrival on the scene – tremendous attention is paid to the effect created as different instruments and beats come into the song at different times. Each of the four songs flow naturally into the next – the last song of the four, ‘Take A Fall For Me’, featuring RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan, and making it work surprisingly well despite the genre clash. The second half of the album, while still strong, doesn’t fare quite as well. The soothing, atmospheric sound of the first half begins to overstay its welcome and by album’s later stages the listener’s energy will end up dropping precipitously. The album would really have been best served by having one extremely solid track amongst its final few tracks; a track like ‘Retrograde’ or ‘Digital Lion’ would have been better suited for seeing the album off than the relatively muted and dull ‘Our Love Comes Back’.
The slower, sleepier second half should in no way detract from the strength or style of the first. Blake deploys a less minimalistic approach to this than he did for James Blake but the style is no less efficient here – he is able to achieve much with relatively little. Yet, while there is certainly melancholic edge to most of the tracks in the album, it doesn’t really seem like a particularly emotionally charged album. Instead, it is an album that invites you to sit back and ponder the questions that need pondering; an album perfect for sitting by a window sill on a cold, rainy day and just letting your mind wander.
I Am Sold
Take A Fall For Me