Leftfield | On The Record
April 15, 2011
James Blake's first few EPs featured chalky, crumbling beats and marbled veins of R&B vocals. His debut album, appropriately enough, feels like a seismic shift, as Blake proves himself to be as keen a songwriter as he is a conjurer of atmospheres. Blake's own voice carries the day, supple and expressive, multi-tracked into gospel-influenced harmonies or Auto-Tuned into a surreal warble. As a producer, he makes do with the bare minimum, running pitter-pat drum programming in loose rings around solemn piano chords. It's the rare album that creates its own world -- indeed, its own genre.
Talking Book is another Stevie Wonder album that made its mark in 1972 and whose influence hasn't stopped since. Effortless, finely honed songwriting, hints of psychedelia and solid funk resulted in gems like "Superstition," "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," and "Lookin' for Another Pure Love." There isn't a rock in the bunch; every song is a gem.