James Blake The Colour in Anything
James Blake can make the most grating and trite musical practices work in his favor. Yet on the British electro-soul crooner’s third LP, The Colour in Anything, his more familiar devices begin to wear thin, especially when the seduction of his tunesmanship falters—hardly a problem on his 2013 masterstroke, Overgrown. His biggest transgression involves the digital processing of his vocals. Blake consistently demonstrates vulnerable but exemplary singing, like on “Love Me in Whatever Way,” but elsewhere it’s reduced to a warbling affectation due to rampant use of tune-correcting and pitch-shifting software, as heard on “Meet You in the Maze.” More impressive is his self-harmonizing through vocal layering, and how that Blakean choir interweaves with an already intricate soundscape (see “Noise Above Our Heads”). But more than 76 minutes of well-crafted disaffection and downheartedness grows wearisome. His prose might connect—who hasn’t wanted to say, “Put that away and talk to me”?—but his melodies, discouragingly less so.