I’m not really a James Blake fan. I tried pretty hard to get into his self-titled first album, but I didn’t find much in his post-dubstep (or whatever you want to call it) sound that was appealing to me. The biggest hurdle for me was Blake’s voice, which is one of those ghostly indie rock white guy voices that I just can’t get behind (see also Justin Vernon on the second Bon Iver record). I would have ignored his second album Overgrown entirely had I not seen RZA and Brian Eno’s names among the list of collaborators. Upon listening to Overgrown a few times, I can safely say that I’m still not a fan of Blake’s music and I really don’t like his voice, with one huge exception. Listening to first single “Retrograde” through headphones on a rainy morning while not in a great mood, I got completely sucked in to James Blake’s world. The song is sonically beautiful but lyrically dark, building slowly from the most minimal of instrumentation (drum machine claps and a lone piano note) and one wordless vocal track up to gorgeous synths and three layers of Blake vocal tracks. It’s a beautiful song, and for my money the best of Blake’s still short career.
“Voyeur” is pretty good too, for many of the same reasons that “Retrograde” is the best song on the record. Outside of these two tracks, I could really take or leave Overgrown, although that could very well change in the months between now and list-making season at the end of the year.