QUICKSPINS: James Blake – Heartbreaking Friends


Friends who break your heart is a continuation of the sound he surfed on his last record, Assume the form

James Blake is one of the most interesting names in pop and R&B. His last record, Assume the form, was a big change from the sound that first brought Blake onto the scene. Despite being a popular figure in the genre, the enigmatic singer approaches the style in a way that stands out from your average artist, mixing elements of electronic music and R&B in a refreshing experimental form.

Friends who break your heart is an intimate listening experience that begins with the magnificent opening credits “Famous Last Words”. This song sees Blake talking about a relationship that ended, feeling like he should have forgotten about that person by now. This is accompanied by a stellar instrumental, with absolutely breathtaking string progression at the end.

Blake’s eponymous debut album leans more towards the experimental while including esoteric sound clips in the style of Björk. It might not be for everyone at first, but once you get used to it it’s actually quite enjoyable. Friends who break your heart borrows a lot of more trendy elements that are more pleasant on the ears. The record’s production is extremely atmospheric with songs such as “Life Is Not The Same” and “I’m So Blessed You’re Mine”, featuring Blake’s darker and more menacing instrumentals. The “Foot Forward” produced by Metro Boomin is also another highlight with its bouncy piano chords. These production choices instantly captivate listeners in their own world. It really feels like it’s been meticulously put together in a really delicate way, with each sound on the record having its own purpose.

Blake’s voice also adds a lot to the experience and his voice throughout the album can be described in two words: hauntingly beautiful. Her rich, high-pitched delivery conveys a deep sense of melancholy, and when that is coupled with her lyrics about losing friends, it all makes for a truly magnificent experience.

This album doesn’t have a lot of features, but the few that are included all add to the overall experience. Blake has a knack for choosing quality artists for his songs, and this album is no exception. Likes of SZA on the very enjoyable “Coming Back”, or even JID and SwaVay on “Frozen”, both delivering explosive verses – they all add to the overall experience of the album.

Friends who break your heart is a breath of fresh air in the mainstream pop and R&B branch and is truly mesmerizing listening you will come back to more often than not. Ten years after the release of his first album, it is definitely his best album to date.

Test track: “Coming Back”

Rating: 8/10


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