February 15th, 2013 12:45pm

Show Me Why You’re Strong

James Blake “Retrograde”

James Blake spent a lot of his debut album sounding a bit timid, as though he knew how amazing his music became when he added his voice, but he wasn’t sure just how much singing he should be doing. This song, the first single from his second album, has him firmly committing to being a singer, and it’s fantastic. His vocal style is essentially modern R&B, but his tonality and tics reveal traces of indie and goth – there are points in “Retrograde” where he sounds like a strange but wonderful mish-mash of Robert Smith and D’Angelo. Blake’s vocal style has gone more mainstream, but his production aesthetic is still very arty and strange. His use of silent space in tracks is very evocative – is this intimacy, or loneliness? – and he’s good with odd keyboard tones, like the harsh drone that seems to saw its way through the second half of the track.

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