Artist: Jamie xx
Title: In Colour
Release Date: May 29, 2015
Label: Young Turks
The xx rose to fame by being extremely specific.
Their debut, now ubiquitous in indie circles, emerged as a fully formed aesthetic mission statement as much as a collection of songs. Everything from the stark black and white cover to the minimalistic arrangements to the sultry whispered vocals represented a neatly cultivated image in an attempt to strip away all pomp for maximum impact. And man, did it work. The band became critical darlings and festival mainstays, featured on practically every TV drama in existence. But such a limited sonic palette couldn’t be sustainable, and six years on, the band’s resident producer, Jamie xx, has abandoned all self-imposed restrictions and broken new ground with his danceable, eclectic solo debut In Colour.
Though I listened to the album by myself in a room, it’s easy to imagine these songs taking a dance floor or a festival to new and dizzying heights. Opener “Gosh” reverberates with a bass-heavy energy, it’s a full-fledged banger that scores extra points for the mind-erasing synth lines that dominate the track’s latter half. “Sleep Sound” just oozes vibe, making use of some dreamy doo-wop samples. “Obvs” takes the kind of island-flavored keyboard melody you might hear while perusing a tiki bar and makes it part of a layered, captivating arrangement. But it’s hard to pick out individual tracks since it’s apparent Jamie xx was creating organically, without bothering to give more than a passing thought to things like single appeal. More than an amalgamation of individual ideas or a half hazard, beat-matched mix, In Colour proves itself to be both cohesive and musical, ignoring the dictations of less accomplished DJs who either bombard the listener with overstuffed hooks or get lost in a sea of bass. There’s clearly artistry here, and a uniform vision.
My only gripe is about sequencing- directly after arguable album highlight “Loud Places” reaches its powerful, nostalgic fever pitch and its dramatic piano chords ring out for good, we get… Young Thug? The “Good Times” feature is playful and the mismatched moods might be intentional, but nonetheless it was a little jarring to hear about how Thug’s muse is going to “get on top of (his) dick” after having explored some serious feelings on the preceding track thanks to a stellar vocal from Romy Madley-Croft. All in all, I’m likely not the first to tell you and I hope I’m not the last- Jamie xx is a textural master who has crafted one of the better, more unique electronic albums in recent memory, and you should listen to it at a high volume with a few thousand strangers, a few good friends, or all alone.