For the best albums in 2011, SF Critic will highlight each of our staff’s picks, rather than an accumulative 25, 50, 1,000 best album list.
For the last year Darryl has been photographing and filming SF Critic’s experiences with an uncanny eye. From electronic, to hip hop, to indie, Darryl shoots everything. When I asked him to write his best albums list, I had no idea how much time and effort he’d put forth. Carefully crafting his words, he likely spent more time than most of us did.
James Blake: James Blake
To say James Blake’s self titled full-length debut is a thoughtfully constructed, masterfully assembled, and beautifully orchestrated think-piece album would be an understatement. The 22 year-old rising star from London seems to be two steps ahead of everyone, and it’s clear he has opened the eyes of critics and peers alike.
The album opens to somber, back and forth rogue melodies that twist and turn flawlessly on the heels of each word, trading in easy listening for overall timbre. As the album progresses, you experience the down-tempo polyrhythm, amazing lyricism and songwriting Blake has seemed to master at such a young age.
His transparency and sense of humility are common themes throughout the piece, and carry names such as “Never Learnt to Share,” and “Limit To Your Love,” which may pay homage to the overall motif of the record. Admittedly, it may take casual listeners a few undertakings to fully immerse themselves and appreciate the album’s message. The tone is no doubt dejected, mournful, and heavyhearted.
However, for any fan of original and compelling music, you cannot help but feel cathartic about the whole experience. Blake’s reworking of the synth-pop and post-dub scenes that have exploded in Europe over the past year or two, particularly in London, have earned respect from his peers, critics and fans alike.
During an interview with Thrillcall last month, when asked whom he would work with given the opportunity to collaborate with anyone in today’s music scene, Spank Rock chose James Blake. Further, he admired and appreciated both Blake and up-and-comer Jamie XX’s “ability to make electronic and dance music sound organic.” The album received almost entirely positive reviews, and with the notoriety and chops to back it up.
It was no surprise to find a newly released track in late August, which found him teaming up with the 4 time 2012 Grammy Nominee, Bon Iver, titled “Fall Creek Boys Choir.”
Blake seems destined for a long-lasting and sustained career. With his amazing production work and clever delivery, we will anxiously await his sophomore effort. Did we mention he is only 22 years old?