James Blake, James Blake (A&M)
ONE of the BBC Sound Poll tips for 2011, the arrival of Mr Blake’s début album is inevitably heralded with anticipation, but is it justified?
Now there’s a tough one.
On one hand he’s certainly making music that is stylistically unchallenged in these times.
Limit Your Love is the most radio digestible take on here and signals a brief shift into human simplicity from the electronic and vocal-effected curiosity around it that reminds for the most part of a white version of early Omar with added tricks.
Sure JB has the smarts to have us listening, but for how long?
It’s a fine line between maverick and irritatingly pretentious.
Sugarland The Incredible Machine (Decca)
LIKE CSI and hamburgers, the Americans have a knack for slipping into our culture and this Grammy Award-winning duo could be about to do the same.
Four albums in, they’ve shifted eight million records back home with a style that has troubled both country and rock charts.
The first thing that strikes is Jennifer Nettles’ voice, occasionally resembling Jon Bon Jovi if he’d caught his family jewels in his sock drawer. Kristian Bush also adds his Chris Rea-rich tonsils to a couple on this feelgood record that sometimes veers a tad too close to sickly sweet while being annoyingly catchy.
Then, with a name like Sugarland what did we expect?
James Rhodes Bullets & Lullabies (Warner Bros)
FOR all the beautifully-played music here there’s quite a tale preceding the first ever classical artist to be signed to WB.
Rhodes initially used his passion for music to escape an early life of abuse but turned down a scholarship at 18. Not playing piano for a decade, he worked in the City, overcame drug and booze addiction and spent time in mental institutions before the birth of his son prompted him to quit the rat race and return to the ivories.
Thank goodness he did as he takes away some of the formality of classical music to deliver a contrasting double CD of lively versus calm music composed by Debussy, Brahms, Grieg, Alkan, Chopin and more. Truly an escape.