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SINGLE REVIEW: JAMES BLAKE – YOU’RE TOO PRECIOUS

3.5

After James Blake’s relatively bland but radio friendly last album of straight faced alt-pop and the thing that actually makes him money, producing rap instrumentals, James Blake has a new single going back to something closer to his exceptional first two albums, James Blake and Overgrown. 

Stripped back to piano, voice and percussion the song certainly brings us back to that 2011 and 2013 era when James Blake said no to getting sampled by Drake. With elements from the original tracks that really broke him into the mainstream such as Retrograde and Wilhelm scream. His lyrics have consistently sat around the topics of love or relationships with family and those around him, evolving in a minor way on Assume Form towards him finding true love and his dive into making his sound more palatable to the average American listener and the supposed ‘mainstream’ working with Andre 3000 and Travis Scott. But enough about Assume Form, this track ignores much of that, with the only change being his new found love of 808 sub bass which pervades throughout much of the tracks run time. It includes the typical parts we see in nearly all his songs from stripped back piano to detailed percussive elements though it does feel somewhat thrown together which does not take away from the song as it works with its organic, unstructured formula and the time of creation, with lock down as of writing still being in full swing across much of the west.  

It’s sombre, something that much of the time has been missing since his break towards a more positive tone that we saw in the colour in everything. Named after its consistent ‘You’re too precious’ samples heard throughout Blake’s voice is closer, less drowned in reverb than many of his older tracks, adding additional layers of vulnerability and tension. Even with this the track does not come across as sad, it’s hopeful and about a love that is, literally, too precious to lose in his eyes. It really does straddle the line bringing in the hope of his newer material while being more interesting than much of what we saw on assume form.  

It’s a throwback for sure but one that shows his evolution both lyrically and in the new found sensibilities of his instrumentation. It’s the best track from Blake since The Colour In Everything and is a must listen for those into the more intimate, minimal sound of his older material while still showing the evolution of his sound through more subtle elements.  

Photo Credit: Christian Bertrand

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