In a music year categorized by megawatt surprise releases, two of the big names behind them have a lot more in common than one would initially think. Drake and James Blake occupy a similar melancholy space defined by mourning for lost loves over dreary musical landscapes. And both have released bloated long players. But where Drake’s Views loses focus and the magical moments are stuffed between the dribble, Blake has crafted an album that builds on the best moments of his first two full-lengths and further defines his meticulously crafted sound.
The Colour In Anything arrives just a couple weeks after Beyoncé’s breathtaking LEMONADE. If you were paying close attention, you heard Blake’s signature arrangements and lyrics on that album’s opening track, “Pray You Catch Me”. You surely noticed him on the brief interlude, “Forward”. His moody songwriting and haunting vocals were introduced to the mainstream pop lexicon. So it’s only right that he’s rush released his latest record to capitalize on that visibility. Incredibly, Colour is an album worth the attention.
If you aren’t familiar with Blake, his sound is one that’s particular. He stretches his vocals to their digital limits through constant distortion. His beats are understated-deconstructed iterations of dubstep. His songs ache for lost lovers and estranged family members. His albums are dark, tense, futuristic, and calm. And they’re usually pretty concise. His self-titled debut featured 11 tracks while the follow up, Overgrown, had only 10. He’s kept fans salivating between releases with even smaller EPs. So it’s only right to be concerned after viewing Colour’s 17-song track listing. But don’t worry. This isn’t Blake’s foray into mainstream meaninglessness. Everything that you love about him is still present. In fact, because of the album’s length and subtle contributions from Rick Rubin, Frank Ocean, and Bon Iver, his best qualities are amplified.
“Put That Away And Talk To Me” is post-R&B fed to us through Auto-tune and heartbreak. In “Love Me In Whatever Way”, Blake’s gorgeous falsetto is front and center as he effortlessly weaves through his range and spits out lyrics like “Giving up is hard to do”. He channels Joni Mitchell on the piano ballad “f.o.r.e.v.e.r.”.
At moments, he calls to mind Stevie Wonder if he would’ve come of age in the era of Instagram and laptops. The only downside of Colour is its length. Despite the flawless execution of each song, the downtempo mood causes things to drag by the time you reach album closer, “Meet You In The Maze”. And “I Hope My Life” sounds a bit like the backing music from an episode of Miami Vice with its ominous synths and hollow bass drum. Surely, the record would be that much stronger with just this one omission.
All in all, this album is one that’s deserving of the attention that’s sure to follow it. In a music era where everyone seems to be following trend and fighting for relevancy, Blake has marched to the beat of his own drum. He’s created a unique sound that’s a mashup of his influences, his brilliant voice, and his mournful lyrics. You’ll walk away from Colour with a clearer understanding of who he is as an artist. And you might have a tear or two in your eyes.