Showing posts with label james blake. Show all posts
Showing posts with label james blake. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

video review: 'assume form' by james blake

Honestly, I'm really proud of how this review came together, generally one of the better ones to put together - I dig it.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN, and then I think I've finally got time for Aesop Rock - stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

album review: 'assume form' by james blake

So am I the only one who is a little bit surprised there's so much hype surrounding this album? Or indeed around James Blake at all - I get that he's quietly racked up the sort of credits and connections for production details and work you'd be hard-pressed to notice, but it's not exactly the sort that seems designed to build a following, let alone a mainstream one.

Granted, it's not like James Blake has been entirely in the indie scene - he's had hip-hop verses as early as his second album Overgrown, of which I go back and forth whether it's better than his debut, and again, he's had credits on songs with Beyonce and Kendrick. And I guess I shouldn't be that surprised that he'd have crossover appeal - in comparison with any number of experimental electronic artists he's probably one of the most accessible - but I remember in my review of The Colour In Anything that I said I wasn't sure if he'd ever cross over, or if he even wanted that. Granted, if said crossover was going to help him tighten up a flabby album that lacked a lot of the character that made his first two projects so striking - seriously, that album has aged rather poorly since 2016 and I think I was too nice on it even then - I wasn't going to be against that, but I was skeptical about this. While Overgrown had credits from the RZA and Brian Eno and The Colour Of Anything had Frank Ocean and Bon Iver, this album... has credits from Metro Boomin and Travis Scott. Now granted, it also has a verse from Andre 3000 and the critics have been praising this to high heavens so I had reason to believe this could be great, so does James Blake deliver on Assume Form?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - january 27, 2018

It feels weird when, for once, my predictions are actually mostly right on the money. Granted, they were pretty obvious predictions in who was going to #1 or was going to fall out of the top 10 or even some gains and loses - and if I were to say this week that both Drake songs are going to chart next week, that's not going to blow any minds - but still, it's an odd feeling, especially when there are songs coming up that look pretty damn promising!

Monday, May 9, 2016

video review: 'the colour in anything' by james blake

I'm honestly not sure how this review is going to be received. I mean, the album is good, but I get the feeling people are going to be pissed that I don't think it's great... because I don't. Eh, it happens.

Next up, Death Grips, so stay tuned!

album review: 'the colour in anything' by james blake

So on Billboard BREAKDOWN earlier this week, when I was covering Beyonce's 'Forward', the collaboration interlude she made with PBR&B and post-dubstep artist James Blake, it was implied by someone that I'd like to see James Blake drop an album sometime in the near future. And while that's definitely true, I started trying to dissect why, because he's not often an artist I seek out, but one I'm happy exists all the same. His brand of moody yet soulful atmospheric electronic R&B can be surprisingly compelling, albeit more for the performance than the content. All of James Blake's biggest strengths shine through in subtlety, and the details, and while I never really loved his self-titled record or his 2013 sophomore release Overgrown, they were both records I found myself revisiting to try and extract more.

So little did I expect that James Blake would seemingly follow up on my suggestion and drop a record with no warning whatsoever! Now as much as I'd like to say I called it and would love to further test my precognitive powers, in reality it's probably just a matter of timing. After all, for the first time in his career James Blake has landed a featuring credit on the Hot 100 thanks to 'Forward' with Beyonce, so why not push that moment of hype further with the long-teased third record The Colour In Anything. But on a similar note, I was concerned that the release might be overshadowed by louder or more famous entries, especially when hours later Radiohead announced they were releasing a new album this Sunday! And that's not considering the album itself, which running over an hour is nearly double the length of previous James Blake albums, and I was a bit concerned how well that sort of atmosphere would translate to a longer project. But enough dancing around the issue: how did I find The Colour In Anything?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 14, 2016 (VIDEO)

So yeah, this week was awesome... and yet given that Drake is probably going to smash most of this way next week, it's all too brief. Eh, it happens.

And also on a downer note, I've got the next review dropping tonight, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 14, 2016

So remember when I said last week the turbulence wasn't going away any time soon? Yeah, this week proved that in spades, because not only did Beyonce's Lemonade hit like a ship from Heaven, Prince's tracks only picked up more traction on the Hot 100 and holy shit, somehow the charts got kind of amazing this week! And I mean that beyond just the new arrivals: this sort of shakeup I suspect will have longer lasting impacts than many might think.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

album review: 'overgrown' by james blake (RETRO REVIEW)

Define 'dubstep'.

It's not easy, I reckon. It's the sort of topic that spurs flame wars and heated arguments among music critics and fans alike, particularly in the indie electronica scene. It's difficult to reach consensus on what true dubstep is, and even harder to define good dubstep, a problem only exacerbated further by the mainstream breakout of acts like Skrillex and his collaborations. And as much as I want to avoid the argument over semantics, I can't help but feel that when I say that I'm generally not the biggest fan of dubstep, I'm not conveying the message aptly.

So let me make this clear: I'm not the biggest fan of what one would consider the traditional mainstream dubstep 'sound' - it's an electronic stylistic gimmick blown up to eleven, and it has never really sounded 'epic' or 'kickass' or produced the slightest reaction from me besides general antipathy. Part of this, I think, comes from my love of symphonic and power metal, a genre that approaches 'epic' on all fronts, often to the point of ridiculous cheesiness - to me, dubstep can't really match that Wagner-esque sweep and impact.

But I'll be the first to admit that dubstep, when used correctly, can make for some great songs. For example, Muse appropriated some of the stylistic flourishes and made 'Madness', a jaw-droppingly great song from their messy album The 2nd Law. Imagine Dragons also used some dubstep styling with their surprisingly strong song 'Radioactive'. These two songs, plus an examination of the monstrosities that Skrillex continues to shovel out, seem to indicate two factors on how the dubstep sound could work in the pop setting. Firstly, you need tight control of the sound; it can't be allowed to overpower the track. Why 'Madness' and 'Radioactive' are such great songs comes back to a tightness in the production, letting the traditionally atonal and off-balance dubstep track supplement the mix. Compare this to the disaster of a track 'Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites', a Skrillex track that seems for the first thirty seconds or so to have some control and depth - until it all blows up and the squealing, shrieking hook overwhelms the entire mix and leaves you with a migraine. And this leads into the second factor: the dubstep part of the mix cannot be the only thing used to enhance/amplify the atmosphere. Muse supplemented their dubstep with elaborate choral arrangements and the full strength of the fact that they are a prog/stadium rock act, while Imagine Dragons uses lead singer Dan Reynolds and his amazing voice and energy to provide a counterweight to the dubstep track. Skrillex, on the other hand, supplements his overblown dubstep with obnoxious screeching and lyrics that barely exist. 

It really doesn't help matters that Skrillex also seems to be working with acts like Korn and Limp Bizkit, and while that is tonally consistent, it also links dubstep to some of the most insufferable and terrible acts ever to grace modern music. I've already written extensively on how I can't fucking stand rap rock and rap metal, and to see Skrillex work to revitalize those genres with his popularity just makes my skin crawl. But it also shows a certain stagnation when it comes to the dubstep sound, by pigeonholing it into a certain archetype and tone, which could well lead to limited commercial success.

Fortunately for us all, Skrillex isn't the only musician and producer working with the dubstep sound, and there seems to be plenty of people who are interested in taking dubstep in new directions, and have accrued a certain degree of critical praise for their efforts. And you know, as much as the dubstep 'sound' doesn't really engage me, I must acknowledge that managing to hammer it into some sort of workable music requires real talent.

And with that, let's talk about James Blake.