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

The Indietronica artist’s latest record is more straightforward than his previous, but just as moving.

Lamenting at his own self-professed “Funeral,” James Blake wallows: “I would livе in the leaves that crunch undеr your feet / I wanna be heard if I can’t be seen.” Across his fifth studio release, the songwriting is consistently effortless: the lyrics and production never work harder than they need to deliver their emotional blows. His baritone vocals are also stronger than ever, inching closer and closer to operatic-like clarity on “Say What You Will.” His voice – balanced equally between his breathy, metallic falsetto and his heavy bass – often garners more attention than the production skills that made him a star in the first place.

Like with most ambient records, there is a degree of monotony that seeps in, but Blake’s decision to opt for more conventional pop songwriting actually helps to sustain interest rather than dissolve it. Even when paired up with a superstar like SZA, Blake remains confident that he is center stage in his own performance.

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