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Track Review | James Blake's "Retrograde"

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James Blake’s evolution as an artist continues with his latest track “Retrograde,” the first single from his upcoming album Overgrown (April 8).

Blake’s first few EP releases were mostly instrumental affairs with his vocals weaved into the background of heavy synths and an emphasis on the post-dubstep sound he’s helped popularize. On his debut self-titled album, Blake managed to balance the production with his brilliantly soulful voice that finally took a more prominent role. The follow up EPs (2011’s Enough Thunder and Love What Happened Here) had more of their own specializations in singing and production, respectively. However, his steady improvement since his debut led to a lot of attention surrounding the follow-up.

Then “Retrograde” happened, and the moderate hype around this album absolutely exploded. The lead single to Overgrown is by far the most impressive track that Blake has ever put out (and arguably the best track of the year so far). “Retrograde” takes everything that was great about the EPs and James Blake and packs it into one song. His vocals are incredibly strong and take the front seat at first, while his piano floats along behind the echo of his voice and simple percussion beat. Once again, he proves that he has one of the widest vocal ranges in the game by flawlessly shifting between high and low notes.

Suddenly, the track takes off as the synths and heavy bass slide into the mix and elevate this song into the proverbial stratosphere of good music. The music video for “Retrograde” is a bizarre one, but the meteor at the beginning is the perfect visual analogy for the track. The impact of Blake’s complex array of sounds is akin to the destruction of a giant space rock hurtling towards the earth.

I was blown away by this track. With “Retrograde,” James Blake’s sophomore effort Overgrown now sits comfortably atop my most anticipated of 2013 list.

Check out the video for “Retrograde” below and see James Blake live May 2nd at the Metro in Chicago.

James Blake "Retrograde"