Aaron Frank is so retrograde he only wears Helly Hanson.
It’s only been a year since James Blake released his last EP, but in the time since, dubstep has been fully commercialized and we’ve been left to suffer the unavoidable wrath of EDM. So when Blake’s forthcoming album Overgrown was announced yesterday, it was welcome news to electronic fans without an inclination toward huge drops and infantile imagery. The lead single from Overgrown, titled “Retrograde,” premiered earlier today on Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 program on the BBC, and for the fans that stuck with him after his R&B-tinged full-length, it does not disappoint.
On Blake’s self-titled album and the EP that followed, we saw him beefing up his song structure and heading further away from the experimental electronic sound he birthed on CMYK in favor of a more traditional pop sound. “Retrograde” essentially splits the difference between the two, making it appear that Blake has finally arrived at the point he was aiming for on both of those releases. The song starts out with a simple piano melody, which is soon bolstered by an entrancing vocal loop and Blake’s usual weapon of choice, a heavy chest-pounding bassline. A master of the slow build, Blake maintains these basic elements throughout, but the song explodes halfway through with the addition of a piercing synth melody.
Blake is never one to slack on vocals, but the lyrics on “Retrograde” seem much more powerful and expressive than we’ve heard from his previous releases. In fact, when the song suddenly explodes halfway through, he uses the lyric “Suddenly I’m hit” as a detonator. I hesitate to call it a drop, because we’re better than that around here, but as a whole, the song definitely paints an intimate picture for the listener. Put simply, if I had a time machine, it’s a strong possibility I might go back and substitute “Retrograde” for “Spottieottiedopaliscious” as the soundtrack for my first sexual encounter.