James Blake: Enough Thunder EP

Given the success of his self-titled debut, it is tempting to expect too much from this release. But Enough Thunder is an encouraging sign that James Blake is open to furthering his artistic vision.

James Blake

Enough Thunder EP

Label: Polydor
US Release Date: 2011-10-10
UK Release Date: 2011-10-10

A bevy of critics over the last year have pointed out that James Blake’s, "...ability to write songs isn't as fully formed as is his compositional ability." His new EP Enough Thunder is an encouraging response to this sentiment from an artist who is willing to take risks, expanding towards these weaknesses, while still playing to his strengths. Enough Thunder consists of four originals, a cover of Joni Mitchell’s "A Case of You", and a collaboration with Bon Iver on "Fall Creek Boys Choir". Blake provides the instrumentation, vocals, production, and writing of the four original tracks.

As expected, these tunes have the intentionality and emotional nuance that Blake’s compositions are know for. Only this time out, his bare-bones approach is an attempt to connect with the singer-songwriter tradition that until now has been overshadowed by his emphasis on mood and form. The appearance of Bon Iver on "Fall Creek Boys Choir" is significant because both of them are masters at creating the atmosphere and space that move their songs forward. This collaboration sounds exactly like we would expect, with a vocoder and a snare sound right out of the 1980’s. But on the majority of Enough Thunder, James Blake’s effects-free vocals have been brought to the forefront and are accompanied by sparse instrumentation. For example, his cover of the Joni Mitchell classic "A Case of You" is refreshing because it spotlights the simplicity of the song’s beautiful lyricism. His voice warbles somewhere between Antony and the Johnsons and Aaron Neville territory. The vocal phrasings are intriguing even when he is adding effects, providing appropriate tension and release within the context of the song structures.

Enough Thunder gives inklings that James Blake may refocus as a singer-songwriter next time around. A statement against getting pigeon-holed as as dubstep pretty boy. But never fear, the dubstep trademarks are still an integral part of Enough Thunder. The undergirding bass staccato in "We Might Feel Unsound" provides evidence of this. But his slight reactions against the dubstep zeitgeist may be an attempt to associate himself with a deeper tradition. It is no coincidence that the standout tracks on his last two releases, "A Case of You" and "Limit to Your Love", are both covers. He is coming into his own, but has yet to prove his singer-songwriter credibility. Enough Thunder evokes moods that are memorable. For the most part, the melodies are not. Still, these songs linger. The nose is good, even if the tannins are not as well developed.

Given the success of his self-titled debut, it is tempting to expect too much from a release like this. But Enough Thunder is an encouraging sign that James Blake is wide open to further artistic development. He is not always playing to his strengths on this EP, but one gets the sense that he is searching for other strengths to develop. He is willing to attempt a stronger relationship between his skills as an electronic artist and his desire to craft even better songs, lyrically and otherwise. His buzz-worthy success is easily attributed to his ability to manipulate sounds and effectively use silence. Enough Thunder is an attempt to balance these strengths with developed lyrics and and bare-bones song structures. We should wish him well and look forward to listening to James Blake mature. Enough Thunder could be the link between the kind of artist that will pass as a mere fashion trend, or weld the form and content of his art into something with staying power . Though not a stand-out EP, James Blake is to be commended for attempting the path of the latter.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.