Album Review: James Blake, ‘Friends That Break Your Heart’

Following 2019’s Assume Form, James Blake released two EPs in the winter of 2020 that showed his penchant for seemingly conflicting approaches to songwriting: Before was a euphoric return to his dance music roots, while Covers saw him delivering stripped-back renditions of songs ranging from Billie Eilish’s ‘when the party’s over’ to Roberta Flack’s ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’. Unsurprisingly for an artist who’s gained a reputation as much for his innovative production as his expressive singing, he seemed equally comfortable in both modes. His attempts at blending traditional balladry with leftfield electronica have sometimes been less than successful – he’s best when he freely allows elements of both to permeate the structure of a song – with Assume Form serving as his weakest and most uneven effort to date, despite some impressive highlights. His fifth and latest album, Friends That Break Your Heart, more effectively makes the case for that stylistic mix by taking a safer yet frequently rewarding path.

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