Carrie & Lowell
Let us consider the James Blunt conundrum.
When the phenomenal success of You're Beautiful made his debut Back To Bedlam the best selling album of the last decade, the former Army sergeant reacted as any sane person would: he moved to Ibiza and dedicated any downtime going to non-stop relaxing, entertaining and partying, to the extent of opening an intimate club called Everybody's Beautiful beneath his villa.
It sounds an entirely laudable lifestyle, but begs the question of why Blunt keeps breaking away from it to record fresh chunks of his dreary, limpid music. It certainly yields him diminishing returns: every Blunt album has sold considerably less than its predecessor, with his last record, 2010's Some Kind of Trouble, representing a staggering 90% sales drop on Back To Bedlam.
Now he trundles along with his fourth offering, which he claims to be his most personal album to date but which to any sentient ears sounds exactly the same as all the others. Blunt's musical formula doesn't change: pastel piano plinking, muted minor-key acoustic guitar chords, and his timorous warble crooning mildly melancholic words with the soul and depth of a post-it note.
Thus Bonfire Heart finds him murmuring "I've been putting out fires all my life" while sounding the ultimate damp squib. The hapless, soggy Miss America sees him struck by the brainwave that being a beauty queen is maybe a bit, you know, superficial: 'Did the make-up never make up for the pain behind your eyes?' Worst of all is Postcards, an unforgivably weedy excursion into white reggae next to which even Newton Faulkner would sound like Bob Marley.
His muse is stuck on repeat, his following is falling away – maybe it is time for James Blunt to decide to spend all his days from now on partying in Everybody's Beautiful. Here's hoping.