Published Jan 22, 2019James Blake deduced that "music can't be everything" after the emotional heavy lifting and self-examination of 2016's The Colour In Anything, and the press that followed pointed to an artist more open and in touch with himself. Blake's personal development is the primary driver of fourth LP, Assume Form, a tight 12 tracks that show the artist at his most approachable, romantic and optimistic.
These feelings are apparent from the opening verse of the album's title track. "I hope this is the first day / That I connect motion to feeling," Blake sings, adding, in the chorus: "I will be touchable by her, I will be reachable." Further on, they're undeniable. "You waive my fear of self," he expresses on "Can't Believe the Way We Flow." "I've thrown my hat in the ring, I've got nothing to lose with you," he sings on "I'll Come Too," backed by a lovelorn vocal sample and sweeping strings.
Major keys aren't new to Blake's repertoire, but he has never expressed joy and feeling so plainly. To suggest he has entirely abandoned the dour moods of his earlier work would be wrong; now he's using them as juxtaposition against the album's uplifting moments. It's best captured in "Don't Miss It," which finds Blake recounting anxious, cyclical thoughts in slight vibrato.
Blake's continued openness has also crept further into his creative process, with Assume Form boasting the largest number of credited collaborators to date. On "Mile High," a reserved Travis Scott leaves ASTROWORLD behind for a graceful turn in Blake's world, ceding the rap star power to a wound-up André 3000 on "Where's the Catch?" Moses Sumney pushes his range for a haunting hook on "Tell Them," while Rosalía lends both harmony and Spanish vocals to "Barefoot in the Park."
The cover art finds Blake in repose, hands behind his head, staring into the camera. No longer masked by double exposure, deep blues and greys, Assume Form is Blake coming into focus. (Republic Records)