James Blake has already been getting around this year, having fantastic features on both Dave's and Slowthai's albums. Blake is capable of communicating raw emotional power with his voice and silky, euphoric cadence, which, when used to its full capacity, can make for some truly beautiful songs (I immediately think "Are You Even Real"). So, evidently, I was hyped for the Englishman's newest release "Friends That Break Your Heart", a record that, although tumultuous in quality, definitely has moments where Blake's lyrics - a collection of idiosyncratic, introspective looks into heartbreak -, the lush production and his voice combine to make some real powerhouses. Early on, the inconsistencies become apparent, but, when it comes to Blake's actual vision with the record, the faith is there. His angles on electronic music and RnB, both of which he has swiftly woven around his hand over the past decade, are both there again, redefined once again, fresh (for the most part) once again. The production harps on all the emotions Blake connotes to his lyrics, which revolve around all the complications surrounding heartbreak. Whilst the subject matter is touched on quite regularly, nobody handles it quite in the same way as James Blake, which made the experience quite unique. As has been the case with past James Blake releases, a couple of the earlier tracks didn't click with me, but, when they do, their chemistry is palpable. The SZA and JID features early on are fantastic; despite Blake's different style, they find a comfortable groove quite quickly, which makes the songs sound seamless. But, for every sleek track like those, there's another one that didn't stick the landing for me. Whether it be the forgettable and, for Blake, quite bland "Funeral" (which, despite being well written, sonically didn't bring much to the table) or "Foot Forward" towards the middle, they just left gaps in the experience, so the road ended up being bumpy, to say the least. I mean, on these tracks, the writing remains fairly strong, but it lacked the sonic bite. If it makes any sense, the record had consistent inconsistencies; it was basically tit for tat front-to-back with the moving tracks and the more forgettable ones. But, at the end of the day, it was the former that got the upper hand, as, when James Blake's knack for emotionally potent verses is unleashed, it can make for some really impactful experiences. And to say "Friends That Break Your Heart" didn't have those experiences would be a lie; there were genuinely great moments scattered over this project, despite the bumpy ride.
Best Tracks: I'm So Blessed You're Mind, Show Me, Lost Angel Nights
Worst Tracks: Funeral, Foot Forward, Friends That Break Your Heart