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SXSW Recap: Newcomer James Blake Crosses the Pond

James Blake
James Blake
Siran Babayan

What: James Blake

Where: Stubb's, Austin, TX

When: March 16

Of all the buzzed about artists at SXSW, 22-year-old British electronica-pop crooner James Blake is certainly worthy of the hype. Blake's been a critic's darling since producing three EPs in 2010 and his just released self-titled debut, on which the singer sets a wounded, warbling falsetto (think Antony and the Johnsons meets D'Angelo) against a sparse, ambient dubstep soundscape, breathing soul into a soul-sucking genre.

Bathed in blue light, and aided by a guitarist and drummer, Blake performed a handful of the album's tracks, including the single "The Wilhelm Scream" and a deconstructed, spellbinding cover of Feist's "Limit to Your Love." Blake managed to get a few couples swaying in the wind, but his U.S. debut and Stubb's' beer-chasing crowd didn't look like a perfect match (Blake would also later play at the more intimate Central Presbyterian Church).

YouTube credit triplejvideo

While the singer's sensibility has been reinventing pop in the U.K., it's not exactly easy listening on this side of the pond; dubstep isn't our specialty, and Blake's sometime incomprehensible vocals sound as if he's singing underwater. But thanks to Adele and the once-burning, now burned-out Amy Winehouse, Americans might take in another British singer pushing the boundaries of soul.


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