The Wilhelm Scream
Label: Polydor Records
James Blake's first few EPs featured chalky, crumbling beats and marbled veins of R&B vocals. His debut album, appropriately enough, feels like a seismic shift, as Blake proves himself to be as keen a songwriter as he is a conjurer of atmospheres. Blake's own voice carries the day, supple and expressive, multi-tracked into gospel-influenced harmonies or Auto-Tuned into a surreal warble. As a producer, he makes do with the bare minimum, running pitter-pat drum programming in loose rings around solemn piano chords. It's the rare album that creates its own world -- indeed, its own genre.