39:22 min • Atlas • April 5, 2013
Little Bastard reviews
The first time I heard James Blake was listening to his genreless cover of Feists ‘Limit To Your Love’. Its mix of late night piano soul with a crunchy dubstep bassline blew my mind. The album that followed was great, if a little more left field than the single suggested, and I was awaiting his new album with eager anticipation. The news is that second album Overgrown isn’t as good as his mercury music prize nominateddebut – it’s A MILLION TIMES BETTER, which I didn’t even think was possible.
Opener ‘Overgrown’ burrows into you, from it’s opening line of,
And I want you to know I took it with me –
through to the distorted closing vocal, it’s a perfectly built tack and the exactly what I wanted from an album opener.
The gorgeous ‘I Am Sold’ follows, and progresses the ambient electronic sound further, adding infectious beats to the already present piano soul. The beautiful, electronic melancholy of ‘Life Round Here’ and its repeated line of
Everything feels like touchdown on a rainy day –
builds the density of the album perfectly, each song adding another brick, until Rap God RZA lends his vocal talents to ‘Take A Fall For Me’, with easily one of my favourite lyrics on the album.
If I didn’t show my love to you
What would become of me?
spits RZA in a late night drawl as James croons mournfully underneath. It’s the musical equivilent of taking a valium, and only far cheaper and without the comedown.
First single ‘Retrograde’ has an almost R’n’B groove to it, as well as being the catchiest thing on the album (if, indeed, you can refer to James Blake as catchy), the American R’n’B community that has befriended Blake being an obvious influence on this track. It’s a gorgeous song that oozes yearning from every breath, and should have been huge. The Brian Eno collaboration ‘Digital Lion’ raises the tempo slightly, splattering us with distorted drums and enveloping us with sirens. It’s a heavy electronic pound, which leads us perfectly into ‘Voyeur’, the album’s sonic highlight. Starting life as a plaintive electronic ballad, before evolving, seemingly out of nowhere, into a full burst of DIY electro house, and it’s one of the most exciting things on here.
‘Dim’ has a Joni Mitchell-esque feel, albeit Joni Mitchell via Imogen Heap. With its layered distorted vocals and jazz piano, it’s an interesting sonic break to the electronica that surrounds it. ‘To The Last’, with its Bjork-like instrumentation, is stunning, and probably my favourite melody on the whole album, with James’ vocal in the chorus lifting the track beyond the electronic meltdown. ‘Our Love Comes Back’ is the perfect closer, being all folk blues to start with, and all electronic ballad to end. I can hear a huge Joni Mitchell influence on a lot of the songwriting on this album, and ‘Our Love Comes Back’ is a beauty as a result. When he sings
You know how we’ve grown –
it’s obvious how much he has, and Overgrown is the sound of that growth.
This is one of the most overtly beautiful albums I have ever heard. Dark and haunting, light and euphoric, chilled but with moments of pumping energy, it covers a range if styles and emotions whilst still managing to feel cohesive as s body of work. The soundscapes he created on his debut are still there, as is the beautiful piano soul, but the songwriting is much stronger, leaving the whole album feeling far less left field, which is only meant as a compliment. After his debut album James Blake felt like one to watch – now he feels like the only one on the table.