Album Review: James Blake – Assume Form

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Artist: James Blake

Album: Assume Form

Genre: Alternative R&B/Electronic 

Rating: 8/10

James Blake has proven himself to be an intriguing shapeshifter in the modern music world over the years. Everything from his early days of Electronic-tinged flirtation with “Post-Dubstep,” to his moody atmospherics on an album like Overgrown, predicting what a James Blake project will sound like has always been nearly impossible, but one thing is certain, he isn’t afraid to sing his sorrow and vulnerability, and his ambition to push the boundaries in “Electronic” music and to innovate is undeniably enticing. However, that desire to experiment was a detriment on his last album The Colour In Anything. With immense incohesion, the album felt like a compilation of short lived vignettes that didn’t reach their full potential, and that scatterbrained style is something that did not work in his favor. Following that album, Blake has worked with a myriad of artists, primarily in the “Hip Hop” genre, lending his talented hand and pushing his name into the masses while doing so. On his new album Assume Form, it’s evident that his work with other artists have given him a new sense of inspiration and rejuvenation. Just listen to the track “Mile High” featuring Travis Scott and Metro Boomin and you’ll know what I mean. The track is a head on exploration in the moody Pop Rap that has become dominant in the music world, but that isn’t to say Blake has completely adopted this style, because though he works with an artist like Metro Boomin who delivers that moody “Trap” flavor on a few tracks, Blake still delves into atmospheric sound and blesses us with gorgeous piano, strings, and sound textures that paint an ominous picture. However, the instrumentation is never overbearing, and it enhances the vocals and lyrics. Here we are hearing a love stricken James Blake. The album’s overall theme is love and it’s complex nature. The myriad of emotions that are associated with love, positive and negative are soothingly displayed. The negatives being the reluctance to get close to someone out of fear of being hurt like on the track “Tell Them,” or that pessimistic feeling that there has to be a catch or that something will go wrong when everything is going right in a relationship like on the track “Where’s The Catch” which features an impeccable verse from André 3000, but the positives far outweigh the negatives, because on the bulk of these tracks James Blake happily accepts the fact that he is very much in love, and that though no love or relationship is flawless, the feeling of loving and being loved is one of life’s greatest privileges. It’s that realistic detailing of love and learning as you go as a relationship progresses that truly flourishes on this album, and that optimistic encouragement to recognize that love is a worthy learning experience is something that will resonate with anyone. A realistic love record. It’s rare when we get those, and who better to give us one than an undeniably talented songwriter who wears his heart on his sleeve like James Blake?

Written By: Steven Sandoval 

Date: 01/19/19

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