When I first heard James Blake back in 2011 with his extremely successful Self titled release, I immediately thought of his post dub step influenced music as lounge music, it was cool, chilled but as relaxing as any music could ever be. Although its faults were very minimal, it simply lacked that spark of excitement. James is a top notch all rounder musician, as he’s a fantastic pianist, songwriter, singer and electronic producer however his self titled was very ballad based and almost came across as predictable.
When James resurfaced, his new in style was automatically welcomed by many, and shrugged off by few. Overgrown was quite a large step away from his previous LP, as it moved towards a more modern yet diverse electronic sound. We first heard his new sound in early February, where his first single “retrograde” was released, and it gave us a perfect example of his new direction. This change in style was discrete in some tracks and intense in others, but it was worthwhile in every way possible. Throughout overgrown, we are constantly reminded of his diverse talent ranging from soul RnB style electronica, to hip hop mixes, to looping and even to vocals, he really does have it all.
The video introduction for “retrograde” is a perfect introduction to this album, where we are first introduced to the unidentified object falling from the sky. To me this is a perfect unveiling of his new sound. It’s almost like his LP has fallen from space and is ready to be acknowledged by the public.
Every track is key to this album, unlike his self titled. James has really stepped up. The fact that he has RZA on one of his tracks really is amazing, and it just proves his talent in diversity. Every song on Overgrown is so different from one another, and it’s exciting to listen to. It still brings in those elements of chill wave and relaxation, but it just heats up the oven a little bit more. Digital lion, Life Round Here and Voyeur are all perfect examples, where the songs all start off almost minimalistic and warps itself into some electronic cosmic dream. It’s like James has gone on an exploration, leaving his slower soul tracks behind, moving into a more buoyant vibe. Tracks like these really raise the bar for Overgrown, making the album a little more upbeat, proving it’s something you can jam anytime.
The fans of James’ soul sound will still be happy with overgrown, with tracks such as I am sold, dlm, to the last and the closer, Our Love comes back.
All in all I feel like this step into the future has really helped improve James as both a songwriter and a producer. It’s really a remarkable leap that he has embarked on, and I applause him in every way. Although my favourite track on the album, Every day I Ran is only a bonus track, I can’t stress enough that this is a must when listening to Overgrown. It’s a perfect closer to the album and it shows James’ production skills at the highest level. It’s by far his best work that he’s done, by sampling a Big Boi verse, and doing his usual amazing post dub step production, the track really is a winner. I mean really, what is there to not like about a James Blake vs Big Boi track. It’s a phenomenal move on James’ behalf, and it’s got me questioning what he has planned next for his future works. All I know is I’m excited. James has talent and he’s not afraid to show it.
2. I Am Sold
3. Life Round Here
4. Take a Fall For Me (feat. RZA)
7. Digital Lion
9. To The Last
10. Our Love Comes Back
11. Every Day I Ran (Bonus Track)