the portrait of james blake is much more clear on the cover of his sophomore effort than on his self-titled debut. on overgrown, blake really comes into his own, shining on more polished productions and singing with a confidence and smoothness that had escaped him at times on previous endeavors. the handling and promotion of this album was curious to me, most notably universal records’ incessant unveiling of tracks from overgrown. before the album dropped today, half of its content was available for streaming or to download on legitimate websites on the internet. perhaps that’s why blake says that he doesn’t really care if people pirate his album.
turning to the music, blake seems to trade the dubstep tendencies of his 2011 effort in favor of an increasing exploration of r&b. the simple groove and particular timbre of “take a fall for me,” a collaboration between blake and rza, evokes slight memories of kanye west’s production on 808’s and heartbreak, although the harmony could be lifted straight out of motown. on “retrograde,” the album’s lead single that we’ve all heard a thousand times, blake laments in a wordless vocalization over a simple beat that conjures up images of an electronica-worshiping church, a nod to blake’s incorporation of gospel elements into overgrown.
there’s no question that the music james blake creates is beautiful; incredibly cohesive yet minimalistic in his orchestration and instrumentation, blake has manufactured songs that beg to be consumed in an extremely intimate setting, and leave me to wonder what he will be capable of doing next.