Finding love is an incredibly powerful, transformative process. It’s no surprise finding it would profoundly impact James Blake’s music alongside the rest of his life. The result of this is Assume Form, a meshing of the singer’s straightforward lyricism, penchant for melodrama, and the only emotion more moving than sadness.
A far cry from 2016’s downtrodden The Colour in Anything, Assume Form sees Blake shed his aversion to collaboration, with featured artists on four of its twelve tracks. Travis Scott-assisted “Mile High” gives the album an early edge with a perfect hip hop beat (courtesy of superproducer Metro Boomin) the most inept could flow over. “Barefoot in the Park” — featuring rising world star Rosalía — is Blake’s attempt at sensuality, which proves quite successful; the ethereal, bilingual track sees the two singers harmonize like two lovers, taking comfort in their “rubbing off” on each other. The menacing beat of “Where’s the Catch?” has an paranoid effect on the listener, allowing god MC André 3000 to dive into his “heady” verse early on in the track. Even with all these headline-inducing names, the record never feels like anything but a James Blake effort.
The album’s centerpiece is “Can’t Believe the Way We Flow,” which staggers the title in differing deliveries underneath the verse-chorus structure that makes for a dizzying journey; lyrics aside, the soundscape makes a great case for the argument that Blake is one of the best producers of our generation. “Into the Red” and “Lullaby for My Insomniac” are perhaps the most loved-up tracks — both detailing how the singer or his partner have and will continue to make sacrifices for the other — while “Power On” sums up the record’s content neatly with the line “I thought you came second to every song … I was wrong.” By no means perfect, Assume Form feels less pursuant on that than Blake letting us into his colorful new world. For that, the perfectionist must be admired.
Standout tracks: “Mile High,” “Barefoot in the Park,” “Can’t Believe the Way We Flow,” “Where’s the Catch?”