So listen below, and then we'll discuss:
I got fairly into James Blake, for a minute, even though its deadly earnest crooning and copious empty space is not so far from other stuff like the xx or Bon Iver that I'm actively bored by. The point of interest was the way Blake treated his vocals, warping them into an uncanny valley of not-quite human wobbling, and then just leaving that pile up unadorned, as if that was enough to be a song. Most of the time it totally was enough to make a song! This is/was a neat trick! "Retrograde" threatens to be that empty at its start, and there was momentary fear that the little eyes closed, wordless falsetto might be all there was to this. Which would have been annoying, maybe? But no! It's just the foundation, and as a snaky melody to build on it's not so bad at all.
Once he starts going for real, it's clear how much of the vocoder blare he's cleared off of his voice. I am not one to get caught up in some false, less effects = emotional honesty equation, but it can't help but add warmth. But it's warm in a way that feels fragile, like the cold outside is seeping through the window pane and you're beginning to get cabin fever. Maybe that's just too perfect a match for our current weather situation that it's a total sucker punch, or I'm projecting? But whatever, it hit me.
What's best about it, I think, is that big, humming synth drone that rushes up in the middle of the song after he says "Suddenly I'm hit." It fills the painfully empty space his songs sometimes leave with a vibrating fullness. He's often had a knack for despondent mantras. "And your friends are gone, and your friends won't come," is a good and lonely one. But instead of emulating a crippling isolation with awkward near silence, the synth sound gives it a woozy, disoriented quality, like a rising panic attack.
Anyway, I like it. It sounds cool. Thoughts?