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'Assume Form' review: James Blake's powerful album sets the bar high

James Blake's "Assume Form" on Republic Records.

James Blake's "Assume Form" on Republic Records. Photo Credit: Republic Records

JAMES BLAKE

Assume Form

BOTTOM LINE What happens when the emotional electro-pop king gets boo’d up? Magic.

James Blake’s first three albums combined raw, emotional lyrics with spare, electronic backdrops to create a new hybrid of EDM that also influenced hip-hop and indie rock.

On his new “Assume Form” (Republic) album, Blake takes everything he has learned over the years, including from high-profile collaborations with Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West, and applies it to a variety of love songs. The topic seems timely considering his relationship with “The Good Place” actress Jameela Jamil, but his approach isn’t all warm and fuzzy.

Though the thumping collaborations — “Mile High” with Travis Scott and Metro Boomin and “Tell Them” with Moses Sumney and Metro Boomin — will likely get the most attention, Blake is best when he is at his simplest.

And the gorgeous, deceptively simple ballad “I’ll Come To” is stunningly powerful, as Blake captures that feeling of falling in love with someone who’s already taken, cutting the sweetness of soaring strings with the jittering percussion of reality. It’s an early candidate for song of the year, and when combined with his advice for those dealing with suicidal thoughts in “Power On” and “Don’t Miss It,” “Assume Form” sets a high artistic bar for 2019.

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