Friends That Break Your Heart by James Blake Album review by Greg Walker for Northern Transmissions

Republic Records

7.4

James Blake

Friends That Break Your Heart

Like Bon Iver, who appeared on his last album—an underproduced, but still captivating outing—James Blake has a voice that is so signature, especially in his frequent falsetto. This album, Friends That Break Your Heart, has more satisfying production and twelve tracks that play very well together, whether it’s his ironically-titled opener, “Famous Last Words,” or “Coming Back” with R&B singer SZA, or his rap-infused “Frozen” with rappers, JID and SwaVay.

It is what you would expect from a James Blake album. Super emotional lyrics like, “Don’t give up on me / Please I’ll be the best I can be.” Beautiful arrangements that both subvert pop music and celebrate it. He’s so original, you know a James Blake album when you hear one. They are replayable songs, if just to hear his wonderful vocal acrobatics again.

“Whatever makes you feel,” he sings on “Lost Angel Nights.” And his music does make you feel something deep and cathartic. Originally from London and now living in Los Angeles, he is the kind of artist that the world might not have asked for but turns out it needs, taking from the past but sounding like the future. He’s been nominated for five Grammys (and won one), and while this album doesn’t seem to be a contender, it is still a satisfying group of songs that will find a home in many a listeners’ lives.

“In the end / it was friends who broke your heart.” His voice and subject matter often strike such a nerve so that he soundtracks our life experiences, like what I would call a more experimental Adelle. “If this life matters / how am I still wasting it? / If I’m an animal / shouldn’t I be embracing it?” “When you’re with me, I feel like I’m embracing it.” That’s what good music does, it connects us with our heart, even when our lives our in varying degrees of shambles. Listening to James Blake makes you feel alive, with all of life’s complicated emotions and realizations. With feelings of falling and rising, love and loss, vulnerability and bravery, you feel like you’ve gone on quite a trip listening to his latest album. A success if not a triumph of an album.

Pre-order Friends That Break Your Heart by James Blake HERE