James Blake often navigates the border between kitsch and truthfulness. The British Blake (33), who will be featured on his new album Friends That Break Your Heart reflects on lost friendship, usually sounds serious. The baritone voice muses stately, or warmly wraps itself around the instrumentations.
The closing track ‘If I’m Insecure’ seems like a statement, but Blake gets lost in his electronic vistas. That happens more often on this new, fifth album. It is a calm album, where Blake supplements electronic fragments with soft strumming and strings. There are successful songs, such as the moving ‘Show Me’ and ‘Say What You Will’. Unfortunately the impressive ‘Show Me’ got a sentimental interlude, with emphatically dramatic turns, just like opening track ‘Famous Last Words’. It’s an advantage that Blake’s electric piano is less prominent here. And that Blake can dose is also apparent from the wonderfully hypnotic ‘Foot Forward’.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of October 14, 2021