February 24, 2021

James Blake – Assume Form – Republic

By Kristi Kates | April 6, 2019

Blake’s been zipping around on a pile of side projects over the past few years, including collaborations with Kendrick Lamar and Future (on the Black Panther soundtrack), Chance the Rapper, and Bon Iver. But now he returns with his third album, which both continues his long list of collaborations and returns to some of the more pensive songwriting of his earlier sets. Highlights include the ruminative “Barefoot in the Park” (with Rosalia); the very radio-ready “Where’s the Catch,” featuring Andre 3000; and the hypnotizing refrains of closer, “Lullaby for my Insomniac.”

David Gray – Gold in a Brass Age – IHT Records
Gray’s 11th album arrives nearly two decades after his most notable pop effort, White Ladder, and finds the singer-songwriter in an experimental mood, trading in his usual introspective, quieter approaches to songs for a wider folktronica reach that brings in electronica and atmospheric combinations of instruments. Opener, “The Sapling,” and first single, “A Tight Ship,” are both standouts — the first with an appealing Peter-Gabriel-esque melody and the latter with a sharp groove and myriad of percussion components. ***

Dido – Still On My Mind – BMG
Not much has been heard from the distinctive voice of Dido since the early 2000s, which was a shame; her emotionally deep yet calming performances paired perfectly with electronica and acoustic guitar components to make simply pretty music. Finally, she’s back with the same formula (and her producer-whiz brother, Rollo) and another roster of affecting tracks, from preview single, “Hurricanes,” with a light synth beat and appropriately whirlwind lyrical phrasings to the chill danceability of “Friends” and the subtle melodies of “Have to Stay” with an instrument-free intro and confident refrain. *** ½
The National – I Am Easy to Find – 4AD
Recorded in New York state with a plethora of guest appearances (the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Lisa Hannigan, and Sharon Van Etten among them), The National’s eighth studio effort arrives with a short film of the same name to accompany it (directed by Mike Mills), all the better to do justice to these solid indie-rock tunes. The most interesting thing about the album is that the tracks seem to have been arranged as if they were following a movie script, from opener, “You Had Your Soul with You,” to closer, “Light Years.” ** ½


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