The new trend of artists surprise-releasing new albums has seriously gathered pace in 2016, and with that, a digital clamour to get first impressions and reviews up online and to be the first to say “I’ve heard it”. James Blake‘s ‘The Colour In Anything’ is the latest to join the club. At 76 minutes long, it’ll take a little longer to bed itself in with listeners but just a fortnight after Beyoncé let ‘Lemonade’ loose on Planet Earth, Blake – who appeared on the Number 1 album – has followed up with his third record. It’s perfect timing.
The artwork for the album reflects its mood: grey, bleak and vulnerable. Themes of loneliness and heartbreak run deep in the album’s 17 tracks right from the off, with crooked pianos, cut-up beats and self-harmonising in opener ‘Radio Silence’. ‘Points’, with its repeating lyric “It’s sad that you’re no longer her” loops round and round until it gently fades out. Self-doubt feeds the likes of ‘I Hope My Life’ and ‘My Willing Heart’, with lyrics “I hope I’m right when I speak my mind” and “how will I walk slow?”. The brick wall that Blake admittedly hit during the making of this album, may well have been the making of this album.
‘f.o.r.e.v.e.r.’, an aching piano ballad and ‘Choose Me’ stand out, the latter sounding like Blake has created his own gospel choir.
‘Timeless’ is the song that Kanye West reportedly wrote an unused rap for, and there are gaps in the song where you know Yeezy’s vocals would have slotted in perfectly. Instead you get an image of him glancing jealously at how effortless Blake can make a song grow into itself in just a few minutes with minimal instrumentation.
The Colour in Anything is a very long album, and could easily have been truncated. A little more discipline with the tracklisting would have made for a better finish. That said, the album’s subtleties gives the songs plenty of breathing space and lets the listener get through good chunks of the album without losing its impact.
The Colour in Anything is out now via Polydor.
This James Blake Review was written by Daniel Lushcombe, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Stephen Butchard.