October 16, 2021

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James Blake’s ‘Friends That Break Your Heart’: Album Review

2 min read

James Blake is one of the most unusual and seemingly contradictory artists to emerge in the last decade: an electronic-music artist whose music is full of all sorts of strange sounds, but he is also a ballader of backbone-scorched vocals Like. Most unusually, he is probably best known as a hip-hop collaborator, having worked with J-Z, Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, Travis Scott and other A-list pappers. Listening to his albums, you can never imagine him as a hip-hop vocalist, but he won the 2019 Grammy for Best Rap Rap Performance for “Kings Dead”, his collaboration with Lamar, Future and Jay Rock.

Blake is a cheerful artist and his discography blends solo, EP, and collaborations, but his albums have been more deliberate and studied in their experimentation: alluring but often challenging, his gorgeous melodies rhythmically or inadvertently interspersed with other worlds of electronic sleep and blur. . No matter how beautiful his music is, there is always a disturbing or disturbing element to prevent the listener from being comfortable.

On that note, “Friends Who Break Your Heart,” is Blake’s fifth and latest, both his closest and most disturbing albums. Despite the Sam Smith-SQ title and the occasional deadly song (sample: “I know this feeling very well / Survive your own funeral”), it’s less modest than the previous two and has its most melodious melody. This may be due to the presence of songwriters such as SZA, Starrah, Ali Tamposi, Rick Nowels and Take a Daytrip (all of whom have one or two songs) and Blake’s real-life partner Jamila Jamil Kaurrot and several other corporate songs. Can last a little longer, it’s pretty much a James Blake album and there’s no shortage of distractions.

“Lost Angel Nights” is a heavenly dance, featuring gorgeous stacked harmonies, whose unusual conventional, almost Christmas carol-like melodies are offset by synth blurps and trippy breakdowns; “Frozen” is a bizarre, deep-space collaboration with rapper JID and Self; And there are plenty of audio squiggles, warps, loops, bloops, and Bach-Y-Philip Glass-View-Daft punk electronic patterns that can be seen on all of his albums.

Yet the SZA softens its angular edges into a beautiful “comeback”; The characterless sweet “Show Me” has a frank ocean-ic spontaneous voice; And premiering Blake’s “Solo Piano” tour in late 2019, “Say What You Want”, not only highlights his most beautiful chorus today, but perhaps the biggest showcase of his versatile vocals with his high-range stretched falsetto vamp. At the end. The album ends with the weird winner, “If I’m Unsafe,” a faint melody on the verses bursting into the sunlight, suppressed by church-like sounds and choral voices; In the final chorus they are almost completely drowned out by a loud blipping high-pitch synth sound.

“Friends That Break Your Heart” is Blake’s best and most refined album to date, which finds him following different paths following him together: more conventional and more distracting, beautiful and more boring, all at the same time.

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