#1 James Blake- Overgrown
Released: April 5th
By: Dequan Huggins
With the world falling in love with electronic and dance music, UK singer/producer James Blake aimed to separate himself from other artist by infusing the worlds of soul and electronica. The heavenly combination on his second studio album Overgrown was the perfect balance of the two worlds, even winning him the Mercury Prize for Best album from the United Kingdom. Blake’s creative genius through production, song writing, and voice control created the most entertaining and interesting album of the year.
Through his trademark production style, Blake has always been amazing at crafting his emotional instrumentals. At the production helm of every song except the experimental music legend Brian Eno produced “Digital Lion”, Blake finds ways to mix warm synths with razor sharp drums giving the instrumental life. One of the most impressive components on Overgrown would be the variety of beats. From the hip-hop inspired “Life Round Here” to the simple piano ballad of “DLM” James covers all styles completing the spectrum. Blake has perfected the art of an asymmetrical song. His production styles may be balanced but the UK Producer has always preferred his song structure to be slightly off-centered making it unique and original. The textures of the production fluctuate from ambient beginnings to a surprising climax towards the end of the song making the project more of an event than an album.
Shying away from television and interviews, Blake is a man of few words in media and in song. Blake has never felt the need to oversaturate his songs with words when he can get straight to the point with a few phrases and through his production. His unorthodox writing style has even influenced artists like Drake with popular tracks like “Worst Behavior” which practices repetition similar to a Blake record. Simple lyrics like “And we lay nocturnal/ speculating what we feel” are repeated throughout “I Am Sold.” Through pitch shifts and panning from left to right the lyrics architect rhythm within itself adding layers to Blake’s production. Attempting to show his range as a writer and a vocalist Blake delivers his best performance ever with his lead single “Retrograde.” One of his only complete lyric songs where he taps into his upper registry during the climax of the record creating best vocal performance of 2013.
2013 saw so many great albums but Overgrown stood out amongst them all with its originality. James Blake may not have saw the success that others have seen this year in terms of sales, but the respect and influence was evident even becoming Kanye West’s favorite artist this year. Overgrown landed James Blake a Grammy nomination for best new artist that is well deserved and can only mean bigger and better things for the beloved UK artist.
Favorite Songs: Retrograde, Our Love Comes Back, Life Round Here
Weakest Song: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯