Laid over his trademark minimalist production, James Blake battles with his insecurities on the tentatively optimistic ‘Funeral’. “I feel invisible in every city,” he remarks on this familiar feeling. “Don’t give up on me,” he pleads, before promising that “I’ll be the best I can be”. It’s this journey through self-doubt that underpins his fifth studio album, one that ultimately looks to celebrate the self regardless of wider influence. It’s a mantra that reaches its fittingly melancholic climax on the painfully retrospective title track. “In the end it was friends who broke my heart,” he offers in his distinct tone.
Yet there’s freedom in James’s realisations, unfolding on a record that simultaneously expands on his delicate production and sees him fully embrace his singer-songwriter alter ego. The SZA-featuring ‘Coming Back’ sits alongside ‘Frozen’ as his most assured foray into new genres. The latter part of the record elevates his vocal delivery, as ever paired with considered electronic flourishes. ‘Show Me’, featuring Monica Martin, is among his most beautiful work to date. His shifts in sound are as delicate as his music, continuing to showcase his ability to blur styles with unparalleled precision.
It provides the space for him to take on these insecurities head on. The tellingly-titled ‘If I’m Insecure’ finds salvation in love. It lands on both resignation and acceptance, that it’s OK to be lost and found at the same time. This blissful resignation runs throughout ‘Friends That Break your Heart’. “I know I’ll be replaced,” he laments at the album’s midpoint before cementing the record’s driving force. “I put my best foot forward,” he affirms, “what else can I do?”.