4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Blake's first full-length garners international praise but it doesn't quite live up to all the hype,
This review is from: James Blake (MP3 Music)I immediately took issue with the album for the simple fact that the first couple of minutes of a few songs sounded very similar in terms of vocal style with a musician that I do happen to really like, Justin Vernon from Bon Iver fame. My husband and I unfairly dismissed it right away but my husband came back to it a week or two later and did some research on Blake and his previous releases and had somewhat of a change of heart. I, being the stubborn person I can be sometimes, had my mind made up about it. However, I eventually came around somewhat while listening to it on my MP3 player on my phone in the car.
The song that made me perk up and pay close attention was "I Never Learnt To Share." The crazy, frantic, and indescribably hypnotic nature of the beat and the funky-futuristic breakdown towards the end of the song really grabbed me in a way that I wasn't expecting. However, I still wasn't completely in love with the vocals as they sounded like a blatant rip-off of another vocalist I am a fan of, Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons.
But aside from this small disappointment, I decided to actually give the album a fighting chance and listen to it in its entirety. The album gets off to a nice and interesting start with "Unluck," a simple, melodic, piano-driven song with fairly simple vocals. There is the occasional break in the monotony with a strange, record-scratching effect interrupting every five seconds or so. And then the beat in the background comes more into the forefront, building and building, and it jumps back to the original pattern at the beginning and more effective, Auto-Tuned vocals appear.
The fourth and fifth tracks ("Lindisfarne I" and "Lindisfarne II") basically sounds like Blake was shamelessly copying tracks that he probably listened to repeatedly from Bon Iver's For Emma Forever Ago release. The only noticeable difference was that Blake used even more voice-effecting computer techniques for his vocals, to which I would say the popular quote "Too much of a good thing can sometimes be bad."
One of the few all-around great tracks on the record is the Feist cover "Limit To Your Love." The cover is actually done very well and one of the few instances where Blake's delicate, vocals seem to work to his advantage. It could easily compete with the original version and that is saying a lot because I am a huge fan of Feist. And again, Blake's brilliant producer skills come into play and lend a special touch to the original version. I never thought a hip-hop beat could make this Feist classic sound even better.
I think that Blake's self-titled debut is at least worth a listen for his talent as a producer alone. He, however, has a long way to go as far as learning to find his own distinctive style as a vocalist and as a songwriter. Maybe this is just the case of a brilliant producer who wants to do too much. Maybe he would be better off producing for artists who have that extra something that makes them "them". Or maybe Blake just needs a little more time to come into his own.