AOTY 2023
James Blake - James Blake
Mar 9, 2023
How can a record be so minimal in execution and work soooo damn well. It's absurd.

James Blake's debut self titled record fuses despondent, minimal art pop and alternative R&B with extremely stripped back dubstep production akin to some of Burial's works around this time period. Throughout these 37 minutes, James Blake sings, croons, vocodes, and modulates his shrill and depressed vocals onto these extremely minimalistic sound palettes, bringing his most vulnerable side to the foreground on this record. This can be heard in pretty much every single track on the record, whether it be the constant voice modulation performed on James vocals on the intro track Unluck, or the usage of the vocoder on the dual Lindisfarne tracks that almost sound Bon Iver-ish in a sort of way, and general despondent artsy balladry on tracks like the absolutely beautiful Wilhelm Scream and the stripped back piano ballads with Give Me My Month or Why Don't You Call Me? Regardless of how James brings his vocals to the forefront here, every performance here is super cold, reserved, somewhat abstract in certain cases, and almost broken sounding at times, something I haven't really heard with James other works too much as well as other albums in general, at least how James approaches it on this record.

As for lyrical substance, with this cold and nocturnal environment James paints through his vocal presence and very stripped back instrumental palettes, his lyrics come off just as cold and depressed. This can be seen whether it be through the alluding to not knowing about his love, dreams, and aspirations on The Wilhelm Scream, and feeling like he's in a constant state of not knowing what to do with himself in his life, or the loneliness he felt as a kid, which he expresses on I Never Learnt to Share with the allusion of not speaking with his "brother and sister", whom don't actually exist as James is an only child. Even more relationship related topics such as lovers becoming distant or a lack of trust comes out in the Lindisfarne tracks with lines like "Beacon don't fly too high", which reminds me of BCNR's track Concorde from last year. There's bits of paranoia and discomfort Blake shows towards this lover as well with trust issues in tracks such as Why Don't You Call Me or Limit to Your Love where Blake points out flaws and issues within this relationship, with the latter track alluding to a lack of trust with lines such as comparing the limited love Blake's lover has to a "map with no ocean." These more abstract lines gives this record a lyrical edge compared to other art pop/alternative R&B records to release around this time, but ultimately gives James this feeling that he's not angry or upset, but more tired and broken from the obstacles life throws at him. The fact that Blake himself has stated not returning to this sound or despondency probably speaks volumes on why this record really doesn't sound like anything else that not only Blake would create in the future, but really not replicated by other art pop/alt R&B artists, as The Weeknd was working more in trip hop and darkwave influences with his hornier alt R&B sound, and other artists like Bryson Tiller and PARTYNEXTDOOR would move more towards trap aesthetics.

So yeah, James Blake's self titled is quite incredible to say the least. It's truly unique as this super stripped back, confrontational record that keeps consistency throughout it's minimal approach, and even with repetitive lyrics and song structures that just seem to loop for eternity, this record breezes by so quickly, and is beautifully unique as this product of it's time that has aged super well as this minimal approach to both sides of art pop, alternative R&B, and dubstep, and for that, I see myself listening to this record for a long time.


The Wilhelm Scream-100
I Never Learnt To Share-93
Lindisfarne I-88
Lindisfarne II-89
Limit to Your Love-95
Give Me My Month-86
To Care(Like You)-90
Why Don’t You Call Me-85
I Mind-87

TurbulenceSSB's Tags
Yea its so nutty what he is able to do in such a quick record, such a unique composition too that you def were able to explain well
@GelatoM0 undoubtedly, quite beautiful what sounds Blake is able to pull from and throw together here, truly marvelous.
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More Reviews by TurbulenceSSB
James Blake - Assume Form
Apr 10, 2023
James Blake - Overgrown
Mar 26, 2023
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