James Blake – “I Need a Forest Fire” feat. Bon Iver (Singles Going Steady)

"Forest Fire" seamlessly pools James Blake's ghost-soul vocal melodies with Bon Iver's grayscale, heart-ripped-open songcraft style.

Pryor Stroud: “I Need a Forest Fire” is perhaps best understood — and listened to — as a perfectly balanced collaboration between the two artists it features. Here, you can hear both of them vividly, as if they somehow happened to write and record the exact same song simultaneously and then, discovering that the other stumbled upon an identical slice of ether-drenched indie pop, decided to intermix their efforts into one singular composition. Indeed, “Forest Fire” seamlessly pools Blake’s ghost-soul vocal melodies with Bon Iver’s grayscale, heart-ripped-open songcraft style. The result is, needless to say, solemn, but the solemnity it conveys does not feel overblown or melodramatic or strategically manufactured. It feels, in a word, real, like a heartbreak from your past that you’ve been afraid to revisit. [8/10]

Emmanuel Elone: The newest single from James Blake’s album is a prime example of why The Colour in Anything is one of the best R&B/soul albums of the year thus far. The song opens up with some melodic that merge the harmony of Bon Iver’s 2012 Bon Iver, Bon Iver album with the electronic soul of James Blake. As Justin Vernon’s voice slowly fades, the track opens up to have a soulful duet with Blake and Veron. Their singing plays off of one another flawlessly, with Bon Iver bringing the organic, raw melodies, and James Blake contrasting with cold, soulful vocals that will chill your soul. It’s perfect, and is the second best track on The Colour in Anything besides “Choose Me”. Everyone should hear it, and nobody will end up regretting it. [10/10]

Kevin Korber: “Pleasant but forgettable” is a phrase that may as well have been written to describe James Blake, and his latest efforts don’t do much to dispel this notion for me. Despite its title implying catharsis, “I Need A Forest Fire” is soothing. It’s a simple song that doesn’t aspire to be much more, and it largely succeeds on its own terms. However, it’s so light and airy that it fades from your memory as soon as it finishes. Also, for an R&B singer, Blake’s voice is unforgivably flat. When Justin Vernon is a more dynamic, enthralling vocalist than you are, you know that something’s wrong. [4/10]

Chad Miller: The production is amazing here, especially on the chorus, making the song sound lush, but still very much in the dark. I didn’t find the verse as interesting as the chorus was, but it was still decent. It’s interesting how you can get a good grasp of the song’s progressions just by comparing how he sings “dreamer” throughout. [8/10]

Jordan Blum: The video fits the track, as both are kind of abstract, chilling, and sparse. This kind of stuff isn’t really my thing, though; I wish there was more substance to it, as I find little to latch onto. It gives off a concrete vibe, but not one that’s particularly memorable or impactful. It feels like filler, and I’ve heard very similar compositions many times before. [5/10]

Chris Ingalls: Recruiting Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon for this single was a nice move, resulting in a seductive, free-form duet, and the singing is predictably gorgeous and soulful, but the production is really the secret weapon here. It’s exquisitely sparse, with beats and samples dropped in with a minimalist’s execution. Beats and keyboards wrap around the vocals but never force them. A strange little number, but a beautiful, sexy one at that. [8/10]

SCORE: 7.17