James Blake has, and utilizes, so many ideas that he runs the risk of becoming unintelligible or muddled. Fortunately, he has refined his style in a way that keeps the tracks of his second album, “Overgrown,” interesting and complex without being chaotic.
The album’s title and opening track, “Overgrown,” couldn’t give the audience a better introduction to the record. Relatively one of the slower tracks, “Overgrown” is an amalgamation of all the musical prowess Blake uses and manipulates throughout the rest of the album—echoing, layered vocals; strong, soulful beats; and impressive musicality to keep the two in harmony.
“Retrograde,” the album’s first single, pulls from a number of different musical standards and reimagines them as part of one, new era. The track opens on Blake humming, sounding much like a theremin, and quickly layers soulful piano and refreshingly unaffected vocals to create a futuristic R&B sound that’s easy to bury oneself in.
“Life Round Here” is a bit more traditionally electronic, with a catchy keyboard beat and effortless, airy vocals that feel new again. Blake’s ability to move easily between building, intense pieces and more mellow, dreamy sections within a single track brings listeners along on his journey instead of making them feel like they’re always a step behind. The ballad “I Am Sold” leans heavily on spacey, futuristic distortion effects that transport the listener to a different world full of pulsing reverb and ambient beats.
The album isn’t without its misfires. The Brian Eno-written and –produced “Digital Lion” isn’t a bad song, but it doesn’t fit with the rest of the record. The album shines because of the effortless musicality and passion that Blake radiates. Songs like “Digital Lion” and the disjointed and overly elaborate house track “Voyeur” stick out even further because of the rest of the album is so cohesive.