James Blake – Album Review

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Hey Guys,

So I figured I’d write up about James Blake’s new album, as I have listened to nothing else for the last week; maybe blogging will lift Blakes black-magic curse from my ears. Not that that’s a good thing.

Blakes music in short, is nothing short of… interesting. Now, an underwheleming opening line maybe, but it’s true. Blake experiments with classic genre conventions transform his music into an almost linear story-line experience which doesn’t have choruses and verses, just waves of thick, almost tangible baselines and beats.

Blake is not typical of most other electronica artists, in the way in which he implements ‘glitching’ and choppiness, almost sometimes, in detriment to the beauty of his songs. Blake can raise the level of intensity in a track to intrusive levels, perhaps to highlight turmoil behind the scenes of his incredible vocals. Vocals in which Blake’s voice cracks at it’s most heightened, unafraid to present his listeners with his apparent sensitivity.

Blake’s subject matter is unashamedly personal, with songs clearly identifiable about his mother and sister, others, just evolved wails of pain and haunting resonance. Blake sometimes understates his lyrics, by painting them on the canvas of his audio; letting percussion and vocals blend to create the song as a whole, showcasing neither one in particular.

Though Blakes album doesn’t flow track to track, each song in itself tells a story of it’s own, some with just repeated lyrics, focussing on perhaps a particularly memory of Blakes, others, extended streams of consciousness in which Blake beautifully vents into the microphone.

I really adore this album, however it may be officially defined. Blake blends his musical influences into a collection of songs that does not necessarily defy music conventions, but certainly manipulates them to create a sterling piece of musical performance that may just stay stuck in your head for weeks.

A fantastic album that I recommend you check out right now.

Download James Blakes self-titled album here.

Peace,

Matt  :)

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Owl City – Of June

“With Friends Like These Well, Who needs Enemies?”

– Adam Young


Owl City is another one of those artists who sound like they’re a band when really, they’re just one guy; Owl City is the alias for pop/electronica artist Adam Young and I’m going to be looking at one of his older albums ‘Of June‘.

Young smashed into the public sphere in July 2009 with his world dominating single ‘Fireflies‘ and like most people I loved it. Unlike most people however, when I like someone I delve into their music bibliography and look at all the stuff they have done before and this is where I came across Young’s album ‘Of June’.

‘Of June’ is seven track album that has a very upbeat tone due to the nature of Young’s design process, what I mean by this is that Young seems to have forgotten that his keyboard can also play low notes as well. This sounds like a criticism and in a way it is, I just feel like some of his more sombre tracks would have benefited from deeper notes and a much slower pace. I’m no musical expert don’t get me wrong, but in almost every track you can hear a layer of beats that are high-pitched and going very fast, for me it’s a bit of a mood killer. On the other hand this does as I said before, lend a much more upbeat tone to the music and almost encourages the tracks to cross over into the ‘easy listening‘ genre. I’m not fully convinced that this was Young’s intention, but either way it does lend itself very well to this musical bracket where you can just loop the album in the background.

This leads me to my two most important points about this album, firstly: Homophones. This basically is a word that literally means ‘same sound’. The reason you can loop ‘Of June’ in the background is because all the tracks sound the same, Young’s creativity is not flourishing here which whilst serving dinner parties around the world great justice, does damage his credibility as a serious creative artist. Secondly: autotune; if you don’t know much about Owl City you may not know that Young sings in all of his own songs, pouring his voice out of a computer after hours of autotuned distortion. Just to be clear, autotune is where you digitally change the pitch of a sound, it’s a popular technique now used by rap artists such as Kanye West and T Pain. I may not be a fan of either those two artists but here Young actually uses the technique perfectly, making tones and notes last the right length at the right pitch in a very artful manner.

Overall then this is a good album; the upbeat nature could grind if you’re not in a very happy mood or maybe if your just older than 13. Personally though I do quite like it, it never deserved to win any awards and I couldn’t use any of the tracks in my design work, but if you put Young’s album on in the background whilst you’re getting on with some work or chores you’ll probably get them done with a smile on your face.

If you want to find out more about owl City click here.

To read my blog on Dntel (another electronica artist) click here.

Peace,

Matt  :)

Dntel – Life is Full of Possibilities.

“All the Courage and Talent You Have, Was Just in Dreams”

– James Tomborello

Dntel (an alias of James Tomborello) is an indie electronica/glitch artist, I’m going to be looking at one of his early albums ‘Dumb Luck‘ (2001).  The album is just five tracks long but on average each song itself lasts about five to six minutes, giving you more time to enjoy Tomborello’s synthy tones.

I came across Dntel when looking for ambient music for a short animation I was making, I never actually got round to finishing off the project but the pre-production research has now left me with a new-found interest in ambient music. Tomborello’s music is special because it is most likely unlike anything you have heard before; the best way I can think of to describe Tomborello’s tones is that they do not sound dissimilar to the sound you get in your ears when you put your head underwater. All work composed by Tomborello is created through his keyboard and post-editing suite, much in the same vein as other electronica artists such as Owl City.

When listening to Dntel’s album it is clear to notice that he favours female voices that lend themselves better the relaxed nature of his music. However in some songs (most noticeable in ‘Last Songs’) Tomborello deliberately ‘glitches’ his music track to make it jump and play in a seemingly erratic way; though this is actually done in a very acute way giving the music a very unique feel.

Overall Dntel’s album is a great listen, it will relax you and maybe even inspire you. I’m not going to use a star rating system for these reviews but just a verdict.

Go out and buy this album, it’s incredible.

To find out more about Dntel visit James Tomborellos website.

To see the video I used their track ‘Last Songs’ in click here and find ‘Three Things’.

Peace,

Matt  :)