Today has been the first real big New Music Friday of the year with albums from Maggie Rogers, Future, Toro Y Moi and James Blake. Our inbox is heaving under the collective weight of it all. James Blake leads them all today with his new album Assume Form that features the likes of André 3000, Travis Scott, ROSALÍA, Metro Boomin and Moses Sumney.
Over the past decade of releases from James Blake, he has earned the title of a “sad boy,” something he has recently come out to fight against, saying it is “unhealthy and problematic.”
Assume Form pivots a full 180 degrees from the sadness he has spoken about in his past. Even the instrumentals, which still follow the common thread of a James Blake production, explore new avenues with production from Metro Boomin on records with Travis Scott and Moses Sumney and more hip-hop-ready drums on other records like “Where’s The Catch?” and “I’ll Come Too.”
James Blake is in a relationship and in love. If you do the gossip blogs, you probably knew he was dating Jameela Jamil. Assume Form is a love letter to her and happiness in general. He has found good standing mentally and he wants us all to revel in it. Even on the melancholic “Don’t Miss It,” he is telling us to not miss the good moments in life like he did. “When you stop being a ghost in a shell / And everybody keeps saying you look well / Don't miss it / Like I did,” he sings.
But elsewhere, there is a tempered triumphant feeling to his music – like the look on his face on the album cover. “Mile High” combines flickering electronic beats with slow trap snares as he and Scott praise the women in their life and how they are indispensable to them.
Blake and ROSALÍA sound like a match made in raw, pop heaven as “Barefoot In The Park” will stand the test of time as one of his best collaborations. It is tender and meshes what makes them so good.
He also comes to terms with his own faults in a relationship. For someone who has been known as one of pop and post-dubstep's great writers and most interesting storytellers for the past decade, some of the lines verge on sappy Instagram quotes. For example, in “Power On,” he sings, “let’s go home and talk shit about everyone.”
The album doesn’t completely ditch his past. There are still melodies and post-dubstep structures one might have found on Overgrown or The Colour In Everything. He hasn’t stopped doubting himself, which has always been a part of his psyche and lyricism.
Assume Form gives a new face to Blake’s music that is happier, more loving tone, but continues along the same route as his past music. We aren’t losing Blake, but rather getting one that has shown growth as a person and is exploring new places as a writer and musically. The sad boy label can and should be buried for good and we now have a reborn James Blake.