Kate Nash + James Blake | Track reviews
Britpop shape-shifter shakes off a breakup. A bedroom producer’s brooding return.
Published: March 13, 2013
The electro-soul savant that music geeks love to hate, James Blake may have been wise to lay low for a couple years. Dubbed the voice of dubstep a few years ago (not entirely accurately), the U.K. singer’s soulful warble could make bitter enemies of best friends—you either loved the guy or couldn’t stand him. But Blake kept his head down and forged ahead with a solitary aesthetic which “Retrograde” continues to indulge in. It’s a dark, brooding cut that has nothing to do with trunk-rattling wobble, instead riding throbbing synthesizers that are undoubtedly informed by dance music but don’t make you want to move. In some ways Blake is the consummate tortured artist, yet he has a way of making agony sound elegant. “Ignore everybody else, we’re alone now,” he says in soulful yelps like he’s Jamie Lidell’s bummed-out kid brother. Spare verses swell into an even more ominous chorus: “Your friends are gone / And your friends won’t come.” He’s a loner but kinda seems to like it, a bedroom producer who won’t leave his room.