James Blake, James Blake
Official Release Date: February 7, 2011
The Verdict: James Blake — the newbie British musician, not the Harvard-educated tennis player known for his powerful, flat forehand (thanks, Wikipedia!) — rode a triptych of EPs to indie fame this year, landing the eighth spot on Pitchfork's "Best Albums of the Year" list. And that's all before releasing his proper debut. Which, by the way, has just leaked.
So what are we dealing with here? Well: the kind of buzz act that, upon hearing, might just, finally, make you feel old and out of touch. Stripped-down and molasses slow, it's like Lil Wayne's famously bare-bones “Sportscenter” beat, broken down and being dragged forward by a horse and buggy. Blake follows the Sofia Coppola school of thought when it comes to number of overall words necessary for an engaging cultural product, meaning most of the lyrics are dramatic phrases (“My brother and my sister don't speak to me / But I don't blame her”; “I don't know about my love anymore / all that I know is that I'm falling”) repeated over and over. There are hints of Bon Iver, with nontraditional Auto-Tune vocals, plus the general spaciness of Antony & the Johnsons and the XX. Which is to say: It might take a while before Blake inevitably works his way inside your brain for good. Also, has anyone alerted Kanye?