Assume Form is more than just a flashy title for James Blake's fourth album; it's a thesis statement, a reckoning. The British singer-producer sang in smoky whispers over his previous three records, keeping as lyrically guarded as possible – but on the opening and title track of Assume Form, he unlearns the numbness he lived under before. "Gone through the motions my whole life/I hope this is the first day/That I connect motion to feeling". Blake's stunning falsetto winds down the song as he recognises how good it is to just feel: "Doesn't it get much clearer?/Doesn't it seem connected?"
Assume Form is reportedly inspired by Blake's relationship with The Good Place actress Jameela Jamil, and it's clear that Blake is head over heels: the record is more pop and trap-inspired, his vocals and lyrics are clearer than ever, and for every moody moment, there's a happy song to balance it.
Blake's guests bolster his more emotional moments. On Mile High, Travis Scott matches Blake's vulnerability on a sublimely smooth ode to intimacy (Scott probably could have done without the line "ass fatter than a peach", though). On Barefoot in the Park, rising Spanish star Rosalia lends her stunning vocals to a tune that tracks the obsessive beginnings of a relationship: "Who needs balance? I'll see you every day."
While Assume Form features some of Blake's best songs to dates, it also features some of his more inelegant lyrics. On I'll Come Too, Blake promises his lover he'll follow her anywhere: "Oh, you're going to New York… Why don't I come with you?/Oh, you've changed to L.A? I'm going there, I can go there too." Power On, otherwise a lovely admission of Blake's own selfishness in his relationship, features an awkward technological reference: "Drop the pin on the mood that you're in."
But such moments don't detract from the emotional work Blake has put into Assume Form, particularly as the record slows and becomes more meditative over its closing tracks. Late highlight Don't Miss It looks at anxiety and fixation, as Blake tells a future self to fret less: "Don't miss it like I did." Blake is learning to live in the present, and as a result, his music feels stronger, healthier, and more immortal than ever.
Artist: James Blake
Album: Assume Form
Verdict: James Blake's most emotionally mature - and sonically interesting - album to date.