Album Review: James Blake - Friends That Break Your Heart

A review of James Blake's new album 'Friends That Break Your Heart'.

Jasmin Bateman
18th October 2021
Offering a charming collection of ballads that are more traditional and consistent than Blake's previous records, Friends That Break Your Heart provides heavy introspection and authentic descriptions of the emotional turmoil that inevitably follows the loss of friendships.

The compassionate way in which the intricacies of navigating tricky relationships are explored brings plenty of relatable observations to this album.

Opener ‘Famous Last Words’ highlights the struggle of letting go with sincere and melancholic vocals, supported by a simple rolling synth line. The lyrics are littered with compelling metaphors, cleverly portraying the pain of being unable to move on. ‘I’m So Blessed You’re Mine’ is another standout track that features bubbling sub synths accompanying Blake’s soothing croon.

‘Famous Last Words’ highlights the struggle of letting go with sincere and melancholic vocals, supported by a simple rolling synth line.

Blake is probably best known for his collaborations with notable artists, and the collaborations in Friends That Break Your Heart do not disappoint. ‘Coming Back’, featuring SZA, brings warmth to the album with lilting chords and lyrics that accurately illustrate the pain that can resurface in attempts to reconcile a failed relationship. The eerie instrumental in ‘Frozen’ complements the eclectic collaboration in this track. Following Blake’s gentle intro, JID and SwaVay present poignant verses that makes this song an alluring addition to the album. ‘Show Me’ featuring Monica Martin is a pleasant addition.

The hopeful 70s piano sample in ‘Foot Forward’ uplifts this track and counters the bitter lyrical theme of resignation and defeat. In contrast, the lead single ‘Say What You Will’ is a slow, comforting ballad with tranquil vocals, revealing an honest but hopeful exploration of self-worth.

The album is a captivating release from Blake, overall delivering a lighter and more pleasurable experience than his 2019 album Assume Form, without losing any of the emotional depth. In Friends That Break Your Heart, Blake has achieved his goal of creating an album that is more versatile and easy-going.

4/5

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