An unusually large amount of high-quality music has been released in the last few weeks; so much, in fact, that it’s been getting hard to keep up. And that was the case even before Radiohead blew all of our damn minds and released a new record on Sunday.
With that in mind, I wanted to be put the spotlight on two new albums I highly recommend. One is by a sleek singer and producer who may be bordering on superstardom, and the other is by a young Canadian beatmaker who specializes in a hybrid of electronic music and raw, beat-centric hip-hop.
1. James Blake – The Colour in Anything
Like Brian Eno’s ambient masterpieces or a ripe slice of slow-burning post-rock, James Blake’s music has a tendency to make you feel like you’re somewhere else entirely. Out at sea, looking up at the clouds from the bow of a ship; on the edge of a volcano, looking down at the chaotic, churning magma; camping in the wilderness, watching the Northern Lights dance across the sky.
The Colour in Anything continues this tradition, and I think it’s actually my favorite Blake album to date. I’ve always liked Blake—how could anyone not?—but I’ve also never fully connected with one his albums from start to finish … until now.
Blake seems to have perfected his soulful, yet synthetic sound. This is electronic music at its core, yes, but it also dabbles in hip-hop, rock, and modern r&b.
Every sounds on The Colour in Anything—and it clocks in at more than 70 minutes, so there’s a lot of them—seems to have a purpose. You feel the full weight of every piano chord, every slow breathe, and every snare. Highlights include “Love Me in Whatever Way,” “Put That Away and Talk to Me,” “My Willing Heart,” and “I Need a Forest Fire,” but this is the type of record where each listener will have their own list of favorites.
If I have one complaint about The Colour in Anything, it’s that there are times when the production is so complex, so innovative, and so big that I just wish an emcee would show up and start rapping over the music instead of hearing Blake sing over it. His voice is superb, don’t get me wrong, but it can get a bit sleepy at times, and on some of the more intense tracks such as “Timeless” and “I Hope My Life,” I find myself wishing, say, Meech from Flatbush Zombies or Blu would show up to rap a few bars. (Kanye was supposed to originally rap on “Timeless,” per several reports. That could have been fun!)
Overall, though, this is a hell of a record. We’ll be watching Blake evolve and adapt to new styles for a long, long time. And now that he’s been prominently featured on Beyoncé ‘s Lemonade, he might be a full-fledged superstar by the time his next album drops.
Stream The Colour in Anything via Spotify below …
2. Kaytranada – 99.9%
One of my absolute favorite things is discovering the music of a new, hungry hip-hop producer who crafts his own one-of-a-kind sound. Enter Kaytranada, a young talent who was born in Haiti, but grew up and developed his sound in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
As soon as I heard the way Kaytranada blends his sharp, stuttering hi-hats with that deep, booming bass, I was hooked. His production reminds me of a more hyper, energetic Damu the Fudgemunk sometimes, and early-80s dance music at others. He alternates from boom-bap brilliance to fun, pulsating dance tracks at the drop of a hat, and he completely owns both styles.
On 99.9%, Kaytranada’s debut, he spends time working with emcees and singers while also hitting listeners with several sensational instrumentals.
Of the collaborations, my personal favorites are “Got it Good” with Craig David (remember that guy?!), “Glowed Up” with Anderson Paak, and “You’re the One” with Syd from the Internet. It says a lot about the quality of Kaytranada’s ear that each of these songs have their own sound. He’s not repeating himself at all, and that’s something even the great producers seem to do from time to time.
This record is just a ton of fun! Again, listen below via the ol’ Spotify machine …