Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Case of James

This weekend, I really do have Blake's back. Brit artist James Blake, during his own debut appearance on the music scene and his collaboration with Justin Vernon, is slowly becoming one of the most sought-after artists in the indie industry. On his recently-released second EP, Enough Thunder, again we hear his mellow, deep acrobatic croons soar from an era past; so profound, flipping and twirling in the air as they spill effortlessly from his small frame. His innovation in music, however, is so valued that when he resorts back to bare basics - it isn't always widely received. Story of a new artist's life.

A second album and undoubtedly another cloud of attention and buzz garnered after a world of interested parties have had the chance to listen all the way through and plenty of times - Blake is one of the oddest sensations today. Several questions pop into my head whenever I listen to this young soulster. Who is he and where did he come from? When and how does a young man of such slight and unintrusive stature learn to sing like that? How does a man (again) of such slight and unintrusive stature muster in him the bravery to pull off a classic Canadian female artist's hit song with each new whack? Last year it was Feist, this year it's the ever-debateable Joni Mitchell and her famous old tune, "A Case of You". While opinionated listeners generally part like the red sea in their admiration of Mitchell's rambling Woody Allen-style falsetto storytelling, they so far have an equally debated take on Blake's fresh spin on her old ballad. I happen to like Mitchell very much, but saying that around certain listeners can equal a big-time cut eye. I happen to really enjoy Blake's version very much as well, and more cutting looks I can expect.

Every bit classically lethargic Blake, the new tune boasts the simplest of Billy Joel-style piano - instead of Joni's original use of guitar - looping underneath his cartwheeling vocals. I love the undecorated new spin - which certainly is taking flack for diverting far from Blake's regularly embellished, funky oddities. In fact, I'd go so far to say that any critics of his stripped-down vocal performance might change their mind with more listens. We know he has the ability to jazzily garnish his hits, via autotune and dance-age accessories, so why not give the kid a chance to show he also has the ability to handsomely sing the simplified balladry that might act as the next generation's wedding first-dances. A song like this needs nothing of the usual Blake bucket, it only needs to keep the ingredients from the original recipe, and then add some of the sweet flavouring from this young soul star. Blake, and Joni, I like you just the way you are.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. Pour a glass of wine, savour the smells spilling from your colourful kitchen and enjoy a young man - the kind you would bring home to Mom - and his take on one of Mom's favourites:

A Case of You - James Blake

I remember that time you told me you said/ "Love is touching souls"/ Surely you touched mine/ 'Cause part of you pours out of me/ In these lines from time to time/ Oh, you're in my blood like holy wine / You taste so bitter and so sweet/ Oh I could drink a case of you darling/ And I would still be on my feet.

- Original words by Joni Mitchell

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