If you were to make a list of the most influential artists of the past decade–not necessarily the most successful, but the ones who pointed the way forward–James Blake would likely be one of the first names you’d put down. At the start of the decade, he attracted notice as a triple threat: not only was he an innovative electronic producer, but he had songwriting chops to boot, as well as a soulful croon that could cut through some of his headier production and make it feel immediate. After four acclaimed albums, he’s left his mark: Jay-Z, Bon Iver, and Lorde have all been influenced by him, to say nothing of countless other artists inspired to fuse their production with some soul.
Narou, a Berlin-based singer-songwriter and producer, has obviously absorbed some of this, but the influence isn’t overpowering. “You Are Gone”, his latest song, hums with warm-yet-cool synths that sound more than a little like the production on Blake’s “The Wilhelm Scream”, but they’re doing very different things. While “Wilhelm”’s production creates an ethereal haze that gradually thickens into a smothering fog, the synths on “You Are Gone” are much less intrusive. They accompany the loping, trap-influenced beat, flickering here and there to add color, but otherwise letting Narou be the star of the show.
Narou, for his part, has an AutoTune-kissed warble that’s of a piece with some of today’s hip-hop/R&B crooners, and he sounds appropriately in his feelings over a breakup. “You Are Gone”, like the title suggests, is about someone’s absence, and how that absence has sent his future into doubt. “I was always dreaming of a better life,” he sings, before repeating the last
three words: “A better life!” As chill as the song sounds, it’s also decidedly melancholy;
whatever he imagined this better life would be, he doesn’t sound like he believes it’s going to
come about now.
But “You Are Gone” isn’t really a sad song. It’s low-key and a little mopey, but it doesn’t sound like Narou’s in utter despair. He sounds like he’s going through it right now, but even in the midst of this breakup, he realizes that this is only temporary. Maybe his dreams of “a better life” aren’t going to come true now, but there’s the sense that he just needs time to sort things out before he finds a new dream. Sure, he won’t have the woman he used to love by his side, but maybe that’s for the best.
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