Frank Ocean isn't the only artist breaking promises of releasing new albums; James Blake, the British electronic/post-dubstep singer, was supposed to release Radio Silence in 2015. Though he did release 200 Press, a four-song EP in 2014, a proper follow-up to his 2013 Mercury Prize-winning Overgrown is still AWOL.
Save for his gorgeous live cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" performed with Bon Iver in October, Blake's BBC Radio 1 residencies were DJ sets sparse of new music. Then on Thursday night, during his latest DJ set, he premiered a brand-new song — "Modern Soul."
"Modern Soul" has many trademarks of Blake's minimalist sound; the song opens with an alarm-like synthesized sound until Blake sings his first line. His ethereal vocals foreground a sparse piano chord, but the serene start is interrupted by a foreboding bass looping in and out. The alarming synthesized sample returns in irregular intervals, creating tension. Gradually, all the seemingly disparate elements coalesce into a textured and full sound.
The discordance of the production matches Blake's lyrics, singing about the imminent demise of a relationship. "I know a crossroads where I see him," he sings in the opening line of the first verse, and "I see the scenery changes" in the opening line of the second. When he bemoans "I want it to be over, I want it to be over," there is an ambiguity in whether he is referring to the trouble affecting the relationship, or the actual relationship.
What's interesting is the second verse:
What I didn't see was I was talking to so many people at once
The verse is immediately followed by the refrain, which sees Blake repeating the line, "because of a few songs" – a possible indicator signifying the song is about the end of his relationship with Theresa Wayman, vocalist and guitarist of the indie rock band Warpaint.
Listen to the song below: