Review: There's a pleasing contradiction at the heart of James Blake's new album, the much discussed "Assume Form". Lyrically, it's a weighty affair, with Blake musing on mental health and other serious issues. His distinctively emotive delivery remains heart aching and poignant, making each of Blake's utterances sound like they're shot through with genuine sadness. Yet musically, "Assume Form" is surprisingly chipper by the artist's usual downbeat standards, offering a blend of chunky R&B beats, swirling strings, memorable piano lines, crystalline melodies and glassy electronics. It's this fusion of darkness and light that makes it such a rewarding listen, and arguably Blake's most well rounded LP to date.
Review: Now pushing a terrifying fifty-five years into their career, one would be forgiven for thinking there would be precious few tricks up the sleeves of the so-called 'Strollin' Bones'. Yet they've confounded expectations by not only returning to their blues roots but in delivering their best record in at least half that stretch. Who knows whether the grit and raunch that originally inspired the ingrates back in the early-'60s has infused these readings with a timeless charge, or whether the band chemistry has simply been re-ignited by this old-as-the-hills yet fresh-as-a-daisy approach. All we can tell is that Keith and Ron's guitars have rarely sounded as sharp, nor the band this electrifying this century, and the 73-year-old Mick Jagger in 2016 has the strut and self-possession of a man one third his age.