One of the many functions of music is to facilitate social expressions in ways individuals cannot. Music is the necessary requirement that can take any social exchange and empower it. But, the exchange is not defined as between two different parties; the social exchange can partake within the person themselves as an intrapersonal communication. Music is often the solvent as a social solution. Here, we see music as the solvent which dissolves the boundaries of the listener and forces the communication of the outer and inner person. James Blake’s “Color in Anything” (2016) is the magnifying glass to a deeper look within the self.
James Blake is notable for his coupling of synthetic, electronic sound and vocal ranges suitable for any ballad, both of which are truly sought after. Much of his beat-oriented music reflects on certain admired qualities of great hip-hop, chords and synthesized piano of the electro funk era. For example, “I Hope My Life” (track 7) starts with electrifying chords that are frequented throughout the song. Their sound can be traced to 1970s’ experimentation. The baseline of the song is a head-nodding beat, which forces the listener to follow along. “My Willing Heart” (track 9) starts with thirty-eight seconds of rhythmic snare. It creates an unrelieved tension in the sound, with Blake introducing a beat drop that rocks the listener and propels the song forward at the 0:38 second mark.
Furthermore, during the opening thirty-eight seconds, the lyrics are mumbled. After the change, Blake introduces his powerful vocals. Track 2, 3, and 4 seem to really embrace the isolated sound with the use of waves, emptied vocals, mumble repetition, and the overlapping between the echoes and his vocals. The compilation of smooth sounds and subtle vocals truly warps the auditory experience and forces a sense of focus and attention that steals the listener from any external distractions and demands an internal devotion.
“Choose Me” (Track 10) starts with the lyrics, “I looked into myself like a case with you.” During the first 24 seconds, Blake speaks to the listener in an elegant vocal display. The sounds builds and the beat drops at the twenty-fourth second. Then, at the 0:50 second mark, the snare commences and listeners are reinvigorated to look within themselves as Blake fills the sound with ballad-like whims of sadness and pain. Then, the raw vocals are coupled with manipulated, distorted, and synthetic vocals that deepen the alienation. The difference between the two symbolizes the differences within a person. This continues until the 2:50 minute mark when the listener has a pause from the grabbing sound. Then, the snare is reintroduced symbolizing the ruminations of our wounds. Finally, the song comes to an end with a combination of all the different elements and, like a great tragedy, seems to rise higher and higher until a certain fall. Consequently, the listener is introverted, barricaded by walls.
These walls can only be brought down by a forest fire, “I need another dream, I need a forest fire.” “I Need A Forest Fire” (track 11) featuring Bon Iver is a consuming display of vocal ranges and lyrics. Blake paints the instincts of destruction and in parallel the hope for a new start – like “new shade, new shadows.” This song is a tune of introspection and feelings.
The album starts and ends with emotional confusion. Unlike any dichotomous problem, Blake produces sounds that will leave any listener with a mixture of emotion. This album is Blake’s post-relationship emotion, but brings out many complex aspects of the soul which a person cannot seem to grasp alone. Like the need to undress ourselves to truly see our honest mould, this album seems to possess the sort of progression that makes one think and feel. The album calls out to the listener and his inability to feel, leaving them to consider their own emotions and the sides of themselves that they do not project onto others.
For this reason, certain tracks will suit certain days. “Love Me in Whatever Way” (Track 3) for the day of reminiscence and confusion; “Put That Away and Talk to Me” (Track 6) for the day of anger and fear in the face of a loosened love; “Waves Know Shores” (Track 8) for the day of required calm and gentle refuge; and “My Willing Heart” (Track 9) for the day of howling, enthusiastic sobriety.
Like a musical therapy, this album will demand things that listeners are not usually expected to give. Each track offers a insight into understanding one’s emotion or a respite to anchored thoughts. Furthermore, the duality of sound and content and their richness provides an experience potentially different than the last. “Color in Anything” demands from us to delve deep into our array of thoughts. And, the deeper we delve into this album, the more we will realize the colors in everything.