James Blake’s debut is brilliant art but inaccessible music

James Blake is one of those musicians that fits into that category called “art.” The British musician’s style can best be described by however you decide to describe it. Personally, I think of Blake as an experimental electronic crooner/composer. If you disagree, you’re probably just as right as I am. Blake released three EPs last year, (The Bells Sketch, CMYK, and Klavierwerke) each featuring a different style and direction. Now he’s released his debut full-length, James Blake, and we get to find out what this oddball madman is really all about.

Some people say that the first place to look at an album are the singles. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but I think it’s a fine starting point to James Blake. The album’s first single is interestingly enough a cover of Feist’s “The Limit To Your Love.” It’s Blake’s most straightforward song and one of his first attempts at featuring his voice (which isn’t bad!). Unlike Feist’s emotional, earnest song, Blake comes off as a little melodramatic and cheesy. But the Brits are ALL OVER the track, so what do I know.

The second single off the album, “The Wilhelm Scream,” is closer to the Blake we know. The music builds up slowly and exponentially as Blake’s vocals stay static. It’s a wonderful balance that might be rough for pop listeners but is such a treat for experimental fans. The rest of the album plays a lot with minimalism and repetition. We get nearly five minutes of nothing but “My brother and my sister don’t speak to me / But I don’t blame them / But I don’t blame them” on “I Never Learnt To Share,” a rough listening experience that somehow grows on you.

In fact, Blake’s strong suit might be making music that is intensely interesting but not engaging whatsoever. If you’re willing to sit down and really get into the intricacies of songs and the creative process (think a modern art installation) then this is an album you’ll really enjoy. But if you’re looking for something fun to jam out to, I’d avoid James Blake. In fact, I’d avoid James Blake. The guy is brilliant–really–but his music is simply inaccessible.

Buy James Blake now on Amazon.

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