James Blake – The Colour In Anything
On May 6th, James Blake’s third album The Colour in Anything was released. With two top ten albums in the UK already under his belt, Blake’s new release was highly anticipated. To underestimate Blake’s popularity would be folly. Blake has built a steady fan base since his self-titled 2011 album was released. His material is so unique and transporting that everyone has the same idea in seeing him live; not so fun when it comes to tickets selling out, as they have for his most recent tour in just a matter of seconds. Blake’s relationship with Radio 1 gave him yet another push forward into the public eye and he has been commended highly by Nick Grimshaw and Zane Lowe. He now has his own residency on the station, where he previewed two of his own new singles, ‘Modern Soul’ and ‘Timeless’.
‘Modern Soul’ remains one of the best songs on the album, and Blake was wise in releasing it as a single. Blake’s vocal harmonies weave between and hover over the anthemic, striking piano chords that give defining structure to the song. ‘Timeless’ is more eerie and enigmatic, with James repeating, “you know you slide out, when you slide in with graceful shadow”. These lyrics set the tone for the rest of the album, and there are times where his lyrics and melodies are a little too inaccessible. That being said, it is refreshing to not always have a song’s meaning waved brashly in front of your face. In this way Blake makes a stark, restoring contrast to the Pitbulls and Robin Thickes of the music world. The musical composition of this album is also a highlight; his childhood spent surrounded by musicians and his education at Goldsmith’s have resulted in intelligently pieced together tracks which create emotion subtly. There’s something about Blake’s vocals that feels like he’s bearing his soul on every track. It’s something that artists sometimes spend a lifetime searching for, and that something is what keeps Blake’s listeners emotionally engaged and hungry for more every time. ‘Love Me In Whatever Way’ is perhaps the most transparent with regards to lyrical intention, and Blake’s anguish over love is tangible and heart rending.
If emotional output was ever in question, Blake teams up with King of Sentiment Bon Iver on ‘I Need A Forest Fire’. The track is really one of the strongest on the album and the pair’s arresting vocals compliment each other well. Blake’s use of layering and looping creates a dipping and swooning effect which parallels the interweaving vocals. A future collaboration for the two would be interesting. ‘Always’ is another highlight which idealises a natural utopia as Blake sings, “It’s a sweet world, always”. The fact Blake manages to get this meaning through not only his lyrics, but through melody, is something yet again quite remarkable for contemporary music. ‘Always’ was cowritten with Frank Ocean, and Blake appears on Beyoncé’s new album; Blake’s collaborations with artists of varying genres bring out his most creatively dense music yet. Although Blake’s music is clearly electronic, his ability to morph into different genres of music and incorporate styles from various areas means the musician is constantly evolving.
The Colour in Anything does clock in at 76 minutes long, which for some can seem tiresome. However, Blake’s album seems more like a wave to wash over than a rock pool to examine. The album is immersive and hypnotising at points. If Quentin Blake designed the artwork for Blake’s album cover, then the content of The Colour in Anything similarly works as a masterpiece of musical art.