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).
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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.