James Blake (album)

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James Blake
James Blake Cover.jpg
Studio album by James Blake
Released 4 February 2011
10 October 2011 (Deluxe Edition)
Recorded 2009-2010
Genre
Length 38:00 (Standard Edition)
43:07 (Deluxe Edition CD1)
25:31 (Deluxe Edition CD2: Enough Thunder EP)
Label ATLAS, A&M, Polydor
Producer James Blake
James Blake chronology
Klavierwerke
(2010)
James Blake
(2011)
Enough Thunder
(2011)
Singles from James Blake
  1. "Limit to Your Love"
    Released: 25 November 2010
  2. "The Wilhelm Scream"
    Released: 3 March 2011
  3. "Lindisfarne"/"Unluck"
    Released: 16 June 2011[6]
Singles from James Blake (Deluxe Edition)
  1. "Fall Creek Boys Choir"
    Released: 29 August 2011[7]
  2. "A Case of You"
    Released: 19 December 2011[8]
Deluxe Edition

James Blake is the debut studio album by London-based electronic music producer James Blake. It was released in both the United Kingdom and the United States on his own label, ATLAS, supported by A&M Records,[9] on 4 February 2011.[10] The release was supported with the release of its first single, "Limit to Your Love", on 28 November 2010.[11]

The album was released to generally positive critical reception, and was nominated for the 2011 Mercury Prize.[12] A deluxe edition was released on 10 October 2011 with different artwork and bundled with a second disc, Blake's new EP Enough Thunder, which was also released separately.

Background[edit]

James Blake builds on the material released by Blake as three EPs in 2010: The Bells Sketch, CMYK and Klavierwerke. All three EPs have differing musical styles.[13] Mike Powell of online music magazine Pitchfork noted it was "amazing" that so much material could be released in such a short period of time.[13] However, despite the amount of music released by Blake in 2010, most of the material on his debut album is completely new.[14]

In interviews about the album, Blake cited fellow Londoners the xx as an influence, telling Clash's Robin Murray their success with debut xx "made it a lot easier for me".[15] He added that the band's acclaim meant listeners "are gonna be a lot less shocked by [this album]".[15]

Blake, speaking to Jo Youle and Mark Savage of the BBC, said that a lot of the vocals on the album were by him, despite relying more heavily on samples in previous work. "There are times when it might seem there's a sample being used, but I've just sampled myself. That's what makes this record special compared to everything [else] I've done."[16]

Before the album's release, Blake was named in both BBC's "Sound of 2011" shortlist, and came second to Jessie J in the running for the BRIT Awards' Critics' Choice Award.[17]

Composition[edit]

Grayson Currin of Pitchfork noted that the album is "composed of tender torch songs, elegiac drifters, and soulful melodies, Blake's first puts him in the rare company of fellow singers-- Thom Yorke, Karin Dreijer, Antony Hegarty, Justin Vernon, Dan Bejar-- who've recently bent their own lavish voices, not samples, to make interesting pop music shaped with electronics".[18] Blake has evidently done this with many tracks on the album.

The album begins with "Unluck", a post-dubstep song with multi-layered vocals (processed through the use of Auto-Tune and vocoders) and distorted synths. The second track, "The Wilhelm Scream" is a cover version of "Where to Turn" by his father, James Litherland.[19] "The Wilhelm Scream" is a minimal techno song with soft synth tones and booming percussion which gradually increases in volume to create a slightly claustrophobic sound.

The third track, "I Never Learnt to Share" is a post-dubstep song with elements of electronic rock and soul music, beginning with repetitive[20] a cappella vocals, then adding in electric guitars and lush keyboards. The song has a unique bass drop three minutes and forty seconds into the song. This is then followed by the two-part "Lindisfarne". "Lindisfarne I" is entirely a cappella, while "Lindisfarne II" takes these vocals (with some new lines added) and pairs them with acoustic guitar and light percussion. Both parts of the song extensively use vocoders and Auto-Tune.

The album's sixth track, "Limit to Your Love", is a minimalist dubstep cover of the song of the same name by Feist. The song uses only Blake's singing, piano, percussion, and a wobble bassline. This is followed by "Give Me My Month", a short piano ballad, also a minimalist piece.

In the album's eighth track, "To Care (Like You)", Blake pitch shifts, cuts-up, and layers his own vocals and combines them with quiet keyboards and a bass-heavy and very percussive beat. "Why Don't You Call Me" opens with only voice and piano, "played with the studied delicacy of a classical student".[18] Blake then splices up the piano chords and vocals to create unique breaks.

In "I Mind", Blake creates a wobble bass out of "incomprehensible vocal loops", Latin-American rhythms[21] and distorted bass noises. As with the last track, "Why Don't You Call Me", it begins solely with piano and vocals. The album concludes with "Measurements", in which critics noted that Blake's layered vocals sound like a black gospel choir.[18][20] Popmatters also noted that the song contains elements of synthpop.

The deluxe edition of the album, in addition to being packaged with the Enough Thunder EP, adds two new tracks originally exclusive to the vinyl version (and added in the same places as they were on the vinyl album). "Tep and the Logic" is added as track 1 and "You Know Your Youth" is added as track 13.[22] The two are IDM songs with chopped up vocals and light keyboards and piano.

The songs "Why Don't You Call Me" and "You Know Your Youth" include samples of a cover of Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You" performed and recorded by Blake himself. Another recording of this cover appears on the Enough Thunder EP, which was packaged with the deluxe edition of the album as well as being released separately, but the recording sampled on these tracks remains unreleased.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 81/100[23]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3/5 stars[24]
The A.V. Club A[25]
Entertainment Weekly B[26]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[21]
NME 6/10[27]
Pitchfork Media 9.0/10[18]
Q 4/5 stars[28]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[29]
Slant Magazine 4/5 stars[3]
Spin 8/10[30]

James Blake received critical acclaim from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 81, based on 38 reviews, which indicates "universal acclaim".[23] Writing for Spin, journalist Philip Sherburne described the album as "singular and striking," stating that "using lo-fi digital techniques to play up rough edges and raw emotion, Blake’s rare talent is to make music so naked seem unshakable."[30] The A.V. Club characterized it as "dubstep’s crossover moment, rolling back the hostile skronk and centering on a croon that rivals Antony Hegarty for lovelorn beauty."[25] Pitchfork Media described its songs as "gorgeous, indelible tunes that are as generous in content as they are restrained in delivery," while stating that "Blake's musicianship and sonics are equally striking."[18] For The Guardian, Alexis Petridis wrote that "even at its most impenetrable, the album leaves you in a state of charmed confusion: you frequently have no idea what's going to happen next," adding that "you struggle to imagine it being made at any point in time before now."[21]

Matthew Cole of Slant Magazine wrote that "the combination of traditionalist songwriting and avant-garde sonics is what makes James Blake such a compelling listen," while nonetheless noting that "too often Blake either mistakes his process, which is admittedly fascinating, for an end in itself, or worse, uses his sonic abstractionism to cover over a song’s lack of interesting ideas."[3] In a less optimistic review, NME opined that "ultimately Blake isn’t yet the singer-songwriter to pull this album off," writing that "the blazing production talent behind [Blake's early releases] CMYK and "Air And Lack Thereof" is sadly absent at times, and the album generally works best where Blake is able to match his interest in traditional songwriting with a more textured approach."[27] AllMusic described the record as consisting of tracks "more like exercises in sound manipulation and reduction than songs. The approach is no fault, but Blake pares it down to such an extent that the material occasionally sounds not just tentative but feeble, fatigued, even"[24]

Accolades[edit]

Pitchfork ranked the album as the 12th best album of 2011 on its list of "The Top 50 Albums of 2011"[31] while Mojo placed the album at number 17[32] and Uncut placed the album at number 21.[33] In Review Online ranked the album number six on their list of "The Top 15 Albums of 2011."[34] Pitchfork would later place the album at number 52 on their list of the Top 100 albums of the last decade (2010-2015).

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and produced by James Blake except where noted.

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Unluck"     3:00
2. "The Wilhelm Scream"   James Blake, James Litherland[35] 4:37
3. "I Never Learnt to Share"     4:51
4. "Lindisfarne I"     2:42
5. "Lindisfarne II"   J. Blake, Rob McAndrews 3:01
6. "Limit to Your Love"   Feist, Gonzales 4:36
7. "Give Me My Month"     1:56
8. "To Care (Like You)"     3:52
9. "Why Don't You Call Me"   + 1:35
10. "I Mind"     3:31
11. "Measurements"     4:19
Total length:
38:00

* The Enough Thunder EP was also released separately.

+ "Why Don't You Call Me" and "You Know Your Youth" contain samples of James Blake's cover of "A Case of You", originally by Joni Mitchell.

Personnel[edit]

Credits taken from Discogs.[36][37]

  • James Blake - vocals, instrumentation, producer, songwriter
  • Rob McAndrews - acoustic guitar on "Lindisfarne II" and "Once We All Agree", songwriter on "Lindisfarne II"
  • Miti Adhikari - producer on "A Case of You"
  • George Thomas - engineer on "A Case of You"

Charts and certifications[edit]

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label
Ireland[54] 4 February 2011 Digital download Polydor
United Kingdom[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Aaron, Charles (4 March 2011). "10 Post-Dubstep Artists Who Matter". Spin. 
  2. ^ The Stranger
  3. ^ a b c Cole, Matthew (15 February 2011). "James Blake: James Blake". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  4. ^ "Tiny Mix Tapes review". 
  5. ^ Slant Magazine
  6. ^ "Lindisfarne / Unluck - Single by James Blake itunes.apple.com/gb/". itunes.apple.com. 2011-06-16. Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  7. ^ "iTunes Store". itunes.apple.com. Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  8. ^ "Watch the New James Blake Video". Pitchfork. 19 December 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-22. 
  9. ^ "James Blake lets slip album release date, possible title". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 7 January 2011. 
  10. ^ a b "iTunes - Music - James Blake by James Blake". itunes.apple.com. 2011-02-04. Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  11. ^ Ryan Dombal (22 November 2010). "James Blake Announces Debut Album". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 7 January 2011. 
  12. ^ "Mercury Prize 2011: The nominees". bbc.co.uk. 19 July 2011. Retrieved 19 July 2011. 
  13. ^ a b Mike Powell (16 December 2010). "Staff Lists: The Top 50 Albums of 2010". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 7 January 2011. 
  14. ^ "James Blake's album tracklist and artwork revealed". FACT. 20 December 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2011. 
  15. ^ a b "James Blake Discusses The xx Influence". Clash. 6 January 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2011. 
  16. ^ Jo Youle, Mark Savage (6 January 2011). "BBC Sound of 2011: James Blake". BBC. Retrieved 7 January 2011. 
  17. ^ "James Blake reveals debut album tracklisting". NME. Retrieved 7 January 2011. 
  18. ^ a b c d e Currin, Grayson (9 February 2011). "James Blake: James Blake". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  19. ^ James Blake Re-Conquers The BBC, Covers His Dad and Joni Mitchell | The FADER
  20. ^ a b "Popmatters review". 
  21. ^ a b c Petridis, Alexis (4 February 2011). "James Blake: James Blake – review". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  22. ^ iTunes - Music - James Blake by James Blake
  23. ^ a b "Reviews for James Blake by James Blake". Metacritic. Retrieved 4 December 2011. 
  24. ^ a b Kellman, Andy. "James Blake – James Blake". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  25. ^ a b Martins, Chris (22 March 2011). "James Blake: James Blake". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  26. ^ "James Blake". Entertainment Weekly: 77. 1 April 2011. 
  27. ^ a b Denney, Alex (4 February 2011). "Album Review: James Blake – James Blake (Atlas/A&M)". NME. Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  28. ^ "James Blake: James Blake". Q (296): 113. March 2011. 
  29. ^ Dolan, Jon (8 February 2011). "James Blake". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  30. ^ a b Sherburne, Philip (22 March 2011). "James Blake, 'James Blake'". Spin. Retrieved 5 February 2016. 
  31. ^ Staff Lists: The Top 50 Albums of 2011 | Features | Pitchfork
  32. ^ "MOJO's Top 50 Albums Of 2011". Stereogum. 2 December 2011. Retrieved 16 December 2011. 
  33. ^ Uncut‘s Top 50 Albums Of 2011 - Stereogum
  34. ^ Year in Review 2011 - Top 15 Albums
  35. ^ a b "Review: James Blake on BBC 1". Playtonic Dialogues. Retrieved 10 Feb 2011. 
  36. ^ a b c "James Blake - James Blake (CD, Album) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  37. ^ a b c "James Blake - Enough Thunder (CD) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  38. ^ Steffen Hung. "James Blake album". austriancharts.at/. Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  39. ^ "James Blake album -.http://www.ariacharts.com.au/pages/". Ariacharts.com.au. Retrieved 2011-12-04.  External link in |title= (help)
  40. ^ a b "James Blake album - ultratop.be/nl/". Ultratop.be. Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  41. ^ a b "James Blake album - ultratop.be/fr/". Ultratop.be. Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  42. ^ Steffen Hung. "James Blake album". danishcharts.com/. Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  43. ^ Steffen Hung. "James Blake album". dutchcharts.nl/. Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  44. ^ Steffen Hung. "James Blake album". lescharts.com. Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  45. ^ "GFK Chart-Track". Chart-track.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  46. ^ James Blake album - http://www.rianz.org.nz/ Archived copy at WebCite (16 March 2011).
  47. ^ Sverigetopplistan Swedish Albums Chart
  48. ^ Steffen Hung. "James Blake album". hitparade.ch/. Retrieved 2011-12-04. 
  49. ^ UK Albums Chart - Week Ending: 19 February 2011 The Official Charts Company, Retrieved 2011-02-13.
  50. ^ [1], Retrieved 2011-02-28.
  51. ^ "Album-Top 100". Hitlisten. IFPI Danmark& Nielsen Music Control. Archived from the original on 2012-01-23. 
  52. ^ "Certificeringer | ifpi.dk". IFPI Danmark. Retrieved 12 December 2011. 
  53. ^ "British album certifications – James Blake – James Blake". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter James Blake in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Silver in the field By Award. Click Search
  54. ^ "iTunes - Music - James Blake by James Blake". itunes.apple.com. 2011-02-04. Retrieved 2011-12-04. 

External links[edit]