James Blake Is Glitchy and Dark on “If the Car Beside You Moves Ahead”

He's all about pitched-up, chopped vocals on his first new solo material since 2016's 'The Colour in Anything.'

The thing about James Blake is that he has absolutely no regard for your feelings. He’s always stood out for me as one of those artists who can put together a song that makes you want to call your ex or jam your headphones on and go for a walk through an empty park at like 1AM or just have a little cry in the club. Ever since he first came out with his jumpy, seemingly disjointed EPs and singles in 2009, he’s been finding ways to marry the warmth of tape hiss with gleaming synths and the rumble and sigh of his voice. Back then, you were more than likely to hear his vocals pitched up and restless, as on 2010’s “I Only Know (What I Know Now),” or chopped into bits on something like 2009’s “Air & Lack Thereof.”


His latest song, “If the Car Beside You Moves Ahead” is a return to that early, glitchy form. His compressed voice flits and flutters over a looped verse, jolting between its natural form and the pitched-up, delicately nasal tone that’s become one of his calling cards over the years. At points, the synths come *this close* to recalling the wash of chillwave (RIP, we miss you), where synths functioned like a bed over which everything else lay. This is the first new and original solo material we've heard from him since 2016's The Colour in Anything, an album that was one of my favourite of the year. It spread his sonic palette across the dark electronic beats and synths that earned him that early (and no doubt annoying) “post-dubstep” tag, to sweep in straight-up piano balladry and clean vocals. The digitally manipulated vocals were still on display then, don't get me wrong, but "If the Car Beside You Moves Ahead" feels more like CMYK-era Blake. And I'm not complaining.

I'll be excited to see if Blake surprise-drops a new full-length release or EP to coincide with his time on the road opening for Kendrick Lamar's European DAMN tour from next month. Have a listen to this new one at the top of the page in the meantime, and hold onto your feelings.

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