dear lj, there hasn’t been a sunny day this week. of course there’s a new james blake album.
nine-thirty pm: i just took a shower and a muscle relaxer. i have a glass of water. a message comes in from simon: hey pals I think that James Blake album is out now. false start: gotta read this long article about the case against oxycontin for not living up to its promise of twelve-hour pain relief first. baseball players float across the wall in slow motion, which sounds like something a person who has taken a muscle relaxer would say, except i mean it very literally: our projector takes up half the room and it’s yankees at orioles and we are very efficient at burying our feelings.
so now it’s six-thirty in the morning there’s no more sleep to be had and i’m welcoming what i’m sure will be a completely new perspective on this james blake album as being sad and half-asleep is one thing at eleven pm and another thing at dawn, and seventeen songs is a lot.
radio silence: his voice is cleaner than it’s been on past recordings. this is directly contradicted by the contemporary-dubstep pulse that starts about a minute and a half in. i assumed i would be crying already but these synths are really making it hard. woob woob woob woob woob. please don’t let this be james blake’s views.
points: "sadly you’re no longer her," over and over. i want to cry but the beat is all wrong, too fast. it feels selfish of him. girls should be able to listen to this and go, ‘oh god, what if i’m no longer her, the person my partner came to love, that’s why my relationship is failing, oh god this is for me’ but the beats wall him up in a high tower. i’m no longer her, but i deserve a parting gift — give me something i can cry to. this feels accusatory, not intimate.
love me in whatever way: i’m wondering if this is going to be a slow burn so now i’m nervous anticipating the one song that will inevitably make me late for work. this song is definitely indicative of some of what i love about james blake — experimental rather than experiential, on about white rooms and roses and imbued with a diffuse layer, heard through the wall of a neighboring apartment. but i can’t cry because i’m dehydrated from all the salt on these beats. sigh.
timeless: "you know you slide out when you slide in" over and over. either (a) rick rubin slept through this one, or (b) blake put one hundred percent of his focus into his contribution to lemonade in which case i forgive him for everything.
f.o.r.e.v.e.r.: ok now we’re getting somewhere please don’t let a beat kick in please don’t i’m holding my breath because i just hear sweet james blake over a piano and this is what i’ve sat through four songs for --
while you were away, there was nothing to see
there's a mirror in my room i never used
while you were away, i started loving you
incredibly relatable. i am in love with someone who leaves (here i pause and think about what barthes wrote on how the lover is never the one who leaves) and now i am sniffling hard but not full-on crying. i don’t want to be left either but this is not the soundtrack to that.
put that away and talk to me: then, by god, a weird beat kicks in and so do auto-tuned vocals and according to genius this song is about smoking weed. i’d skip it if i hadn’t sworn to sit and abide.
i hope my life: i’m getting up and making a cup of coffee because this sounds like the silk flowers demo and it’s not and i wish that was online (i found the song i’m thinking of and it’s better than this james blake record) silk flowers was cool i wonder if they’re still together but there’s really no excuse for this. this record is for someone but i don’t know who and i’m starting to wonder if, like ninety nine percent of things adults encounter in a day, my negative feelings are a result of preexisting expectations rather than the content of the record. because these synths would thrill me if this was a faint record in, you know, 2001.
waves know shores: "i suggest you love like love’s no loss." well again jim i’m not here to live-blog my relationship. though that may actually be more interesting than this thrilling blow-by-blow of a depressed person listening to a record they don’t like.
my willing heart: this one is a frank ocean of feelings, if you will. the disjoint between ocean’s verse and blake’s chorus is jarring. their voices sound like a duet for clarinet and oboe. at least this sounds more like soul than techno.
choose me: i’m skipping ahead to the lyrics for this one and those are enough to make me cry. wondering if i should just take the L on this one and instead meditate on the phrasing of “i’d rather you chose me every day” but i swore i wouldn’t use this space to live-blog my relationship despite that being the purpose of livejournals and plus when the song finally kicks in i like it more than i expected especially given this beat. perhaps i’m not supposed to cry perhaps this album is not meant for me and my tears. around 1:30 when blake shifts up in a higher register, if you squint it sounds like danny brown and i might like that more than anything i’ve heard so far.
i need a forest fire: i am fearless and dedicated in my love for the first few bon iver records. please let this be everything i need. please let this be a self-fulfilling prophecy of a fire that leaves the woods of this album cleansed, better than they were before. their paired harmonies are layered with air between them; the song makes the room smell like cedar but maybe just a lingerie drawer accessory rather than, say, palo santo. i do not feel on fire, i do not feel cleansed.
noise above our heads: again, reading along is somehow more impactful than listening. "i’m here when you don’t sleep so well" has me hurting i am here when he doesn’t sleep well i wake for a moment in the dark as he’s trying to slip into bed without disrupting me but i sense his presence in a room and it rouses me, i make sure he is ok i always want to know that he is ok. and here is where i begin to cry, but it’s not on account of what i’m hearing.
the colour in anything: all the songs that start like this have me praying please don’t let a beat kick in please don’t let a beat kick in. if this is a love song i can’t figure out how. there hasn’t been colour in anything for a week in new york and i know we are all feeling a little emptier but that doesn’t mean we’re not looking or trying.
you must not be looking
you must not be trying like i'm trying
i can't always help you
but i can listen for the sounds you're making
and finally we are crying and this is the song i’ve been waiting for this whole album. what feels worse than knowing (or even just suspecting) that the person you love isn’t putting in any effort to love you back. "you must not be looking, you must not be trying" you can feel that and you know when it’s there with you in the room.
two men down: more bon iver. more curious producing, more forcing weird lyrics into straightforward arrangements and couldn’t he have followed the last song up with more piano and more crying? this album has so many songs on it.
modern soul: "i know a crossroads when i see them / i want it to be over" you are writing things that make me want to cry but the music does not make me want to cry and it’s not like i just don’t understand it or that this record specifically is not for me because this could be orthodontist music or health food co-op music but i do want it to be over, i do want the uncertainty to cease, i want support and reassurance, yes i do get that.
always: coming in like a ciara demo made on a casio with preprogrammed $8.08 beats if we could just take the beats off this record would be perfectly fine there are parts that remind me of anohni and frankly i would love this song if anohni were the one singing it.
meet you in the maze: i want to press a 7" with the title track on one side and this on the other and that will be the only legacy of this record hear me out james. music can’t be everything indeed. this hurts if only because i would meet him in the maze, i have been trying to meet him in the maze for a long time now because i need his help to find my way out and i want to hold his hand and i want us to find our way out and i am crying again, but only because at this point if i didn’t cry this moment would be worth even less than it is — and before i know, i’ve filled the page. it's eight-twenty-five am it doesn’t feel like anything has happened, not anything at all.