James Blake takes us through a dream with ‘Friends’

James Blake releases a new album after a two year hiatus.

Republic and Polydor Records [Fair Use]

James Blake releases a new album after a two year hiatus.

Chloe Dobbins, Staff Writer

After two years, James Blake has returned to writing albums with his fifth studio album Friends That Break Your Heart. In contrast with his previous album Assume Form, which is about his feelings on his relationship, Friends That Break Your Heart fittingly delves into the topic of broken friendships.

If there’s one word to describe the whole album, it’s ethereal. Blake’s calming vocals in addition to the songs’ dreamy instrumentals create a unique whimsical atmosphere. And this album has achieved the impossible — it has a slow, melancholic sound while managing to not be an absolute chore to sit through.

True, some songs do blend together. For example, tracks such as “Last Angel Nights” and “If I’m Insecure” do not stick out from the album much. If anything, they are rather forgettable when compared with stronger songs like “Frozen” and “Friends That Break Your Heart.” That isn’t to say that the songs are not enjoyable, though. They are still nice to listen to, but they do not have as much buzz as the rest of the album. Despite some songs’ lack of presence, the album as a whole still feels fresh enough to listen to all the way through.

In addition to Blake’s own wistful work, the album features several other artists. SZA has a part in “Coming Back,” JID and SwaVay in “Frozen” and Slowthai in “Funeral.” Safe to say, each collaborator pulls their weight and more. Slowthai’s and JID’s raps are particularly exceptional. In the best way possible, Slowthai’s verse in “Funeral” feels more like an emotional monologue than a rap. Likewise, JID’s part in “Frozen” is incredible; his rap begins distorted and flat-out uncomfortable to listen to before evening out and speeding up, a great touch to the already unnatural vibe of the song.

Some of the best songs on the album are opening track “Famous Last Words” and “I’m So Blessed You’re Mine.” “Famous Last Words” does a great job setting the rest of the album’s mood; the dreamy song perfectly leads on to the rest of the pensive album. Additionally, “I’m So Blessed You’re Mine” certainly stands out by contrasting with the rest of the album with its cheerful romantic theme as well as having a great instrumental which shifts later in the song.

All in all, Friends That Break Your Heart is a lovely daydream of an addition to Blake’s discography. It takes the listener leisurely drifting from song to song without getting too repetitive. Friends That Break Your Heart is an album definitely worth checking out to anyone wanting to slow down and get caught up in a reverie.