27-year-old singer, songwriter, and producer James Blake recently released his latest album, The Colour in Anything. The album features somewhat eerie, ethereal electronic instrumentals underneath Blake’s sultry vocals. In an interview with Pitchfork, Blake notes that his good friend, the illusory Frank Ocean, was a huge inspiration for him while writing this album. He admires Ocean’s “process, the way he writes, the strength of what he does, [and] who he is.”
The album begins with the leading track “Radio Silence” which features the classic James Blake sound while portraying the scattered thoughts of a lover that has been left behind by his significant other that refuses to see or speak to him. The album takes a surprising acoustic break with the following track “f.o.r.e.v.e.r.” Blake gives his listener a warm, chordal piano accompaniment to a songful testament to Blake’s fear of the word “forever” when it comes to love. Directly after this, the track “Put That Away And Talk To Me” features hazy, 8-bit-esque instrumentals, paralleling the subject matter of a friend asking another friend to simply put down the substance he hopes will take the pain away with every inhalation.
One of the more notable tracks is the eleventh down the list, “I Need A Forest Fire.” The bassy, down-tempo piece features the poster boy for alternative music, Bon Iver. The two harmonize beautifully as they sing, “I request another dream, I need a forest fire.” The lyrics act an ode to all of those wanting some sort of change in their life, a chance to start a new and find inspiration.
In the track the album is named after, “The Colour in Anything” returns to the acoustic piano sound found in “f.o.r.e.v.e.r.” Not only does its pure artistry make it one of my favorites in the album, but so does the sincerity behind the lyrics and performance. This sobering piece details the strife of the heartbroken. Blake croons about how all he wanted was to mend what was breaking even though his lover turned a blind eye to his efforts. Blake manages to deliver the most striking part of the song within a simple, two-line chorus: “And how I told you what I’d do, if one day I woke and couldn’t find the colour in anything.”
The closing track, “Meet You In The Maze,” uses the same layering of vocals that characterize the instantly recognizable “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap. Blake leaves both the instrumental synths and acoustic piano behind for this piece and lets his vocals take reign. After all the songs concerning the hurt that the complications of love can bring to someone, it is a sweet release where Blake comes to realize, “It’s me that makes the peace in me.”
As a whole, the album sounds simple while being musically intricate, giving way for some beautiful melodies to form. Blake’s lyrics cut to the core and administer a moving, emotional record. This is an album that truly has a special quality.