>I previewed James Blake in today’s Metro Herald, in anticipation of his gig in Whelan’s tonight. The character who usually does them, Eamonn De Paor, is a genuinely outstanding writer to whom I could never compare but it was a nice challenge regardless…
It’s fair to say James Blake is this year’s golden boy. Fuelled by an appearance on the BBC’s Sound of 2011 shortlist, the 23-year-old’s eponymous debut album has been met with a wave of critical acclaim since it landed in February. After two diverse EPs, this was the album that saw the producer cum singer-songwriter finally make the shift from the murky confines of the dubstep genre, to the mainstream. But that’s not to say young James has sold out in the process. Devoid of the delightful indie rambunctiousness of The Vaccines or the pop sensibility of Jesse J, Blake has instead forged a path with a sound that’s all of his own and boy, is it a strange one.
A stuttering theme of frailty and desolation prevails throughout, with an off-kilter amalgamation of minimal, glitchy beats tempered only by consistently warped vocals. You won’t find a two-minute, three-chord wonder here that’s for sure. With its distinctive piano-led opening, Blake’s cover of Feist’s ‘Limit To Your Love’ is undoubtedly the most direct route into his repertoire, while the muted desolation on ‘Wilhelms Scream’ is similarly alluring, particular once the soulful honey-dipped vocals kick in. It’s a challenging creation, and one which says plenty by saying nothing at all; with Blake’s pauses and drops creating a brooding, cavernous effect and turning the atmospherics up to 11.
It takes time for the full effect to seep into one’s pores and for many there’s no doubt that it simply won’t. Regardless, the masses have been lapping it up, with tonight’s Whelan’s show selling out in double quick time and Blake becoming the darling of the music press in the process. Make of it what you will but there’s no denying that Blake has transcended the normally stringent boundary between violent originality and mass popularity. Longevity is another issue but for now, there really is no limit to the love.