James Blake Overgrown

James BlakeOvergrown
James Blake drew a fair amount of criticism when he eschewed the dub-y, uptempo nature of his 2010 EPs for his languid, more verse-/chorus-based debut LP in 2011. Two years later, the shift is far less dramatic, but Blake finds himself moving further into traditional songwriting territory after his father reminded him that his two biggest hits — "The Wilhelm Scream" and "Limit to Your Love," penned by his dad and Feist, respectively — were written by others. Blake purportedly focused on his songwriting, inspired by a new relationship and the distance of non-stop touring, and the result is the lush Overgrown. Genre-wise, the album is sprawling: "Take A Fall For Me," featuring Wu-Tang's RZA, is a slow-burning hip-hop track; "Voyeur" embraces house rhythms and the cyclical vocal samples of his early EPs; and first single "Retrograde" revels in smooth, sensuous R&B. There's less experimentation, à la James Blake's "I Never Learnt to Share" or "To Care," but Blake's bass-heavy balladry on Overgrown is superb, especially when he employs his trademark vocal curlicues on highlights like "Life Round Here" and album closer "Our Love Comes Back." Fans put off by Blake's perceived sentimentalism won't have their minds changed by Overgrown, but that's hardly Blake's worry; he's too busy establishing himself as a consistently rewarding songwriter. (Universal Republic)