You’ll notice on the cover of Jamie xx’s new album an array of colors, and a small white box in the corner. At first I didn’t think much of it, until I realized that small box is 1/4 of the x found on all of The xx albums. This seems like a cute way to pay homage to Jamie’s full time gig (OMG THEY ARE SUCH GOOD FRIENDS), but in a way it is the perfect representation of this album.
Jamie takes the black and white, stripped down basics of The xx and adds so many textures and layers. His bandmates even guest on two songs (“Loud Places”, “Stranger In A Room”), two songs that sound like xx songs. But whereas most artists “going solo” would get knocked on for keeping their sound the same, it makes sense for Jamie xx. He’s never identified himself as anything other than a member of that band so he is free to explore new territories, but play to his strengths as well. It’s a brilliant strategy that plays off.
In Colour is one of those rare albums that perfectly captures the current times, but also predicts the future. It has shades of lots music you’ve heard before, yet nothing quite compares. It reminds me of when I first heard Arctic Monkey’s Whatever People Say I Am. It was based on familiar material, but every time I wanted to hear that style of music, no other album really satisfied.
I feel like people right now have been craving an album like this. For the past 3-4 years I’ve been hearing more and more indie music shift in this electronic/r&b direction, which i wrote about here. But most of the artists have been a tease, or only dropped a few singles. Jai Paul’s song “Jasmine” is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard and I crave more music like it, but he’s only released ONE OTHER SONG. WHAT IS HE DOING? GIVE ME MORE!
In Colour is full of such interesting juxtaposition. The songs reek of tropical flavors that conjure images of jungles, rain and beaches, yet they shift to such hard industrial and mechanical sounds. “Sleep Sound” opens with what sounds like an alarm clock, and transitions into such a strong bass riff, that it gives the listener the feeling of being submerged underwater. It’s perhaps one of the most beautiful and layered pieces of music I’ve heard in recent times, the way it builds into the frantic “SeeSaw” is stunning. But at the same time, songs like “Hold Tight” have elements of The Dark Knight soundtrack, with sounds of machines groaning that bring forth images of metal and computers. “Hold Tight” sounds like great movie music material, like what we thought we were going to get when Daft Punk made the Tron soundtrack (what a let down!). The album also has another seamless transition from “Just Saying”‘ to “Stranger in a room”. “Just saying” opens to what sounds like a train slowly revving up, it’s horny slowly puttering out through distortion. Then the piano begins to trickle in, and brings us into the eerie but catchy “Stranger in a room” which features xx member Oliver Sam, and sounds like a more futuristic xx song.
In a way the album creates an image of what life on earth is like nowadays. The increasing combination of nature and technology in our lives. Like… you climb a mountain… and then you take a selfie at the top… is that a good analogy? IDK I’m a little drunk right now.
“Loud Places” is full of so much genuine emotion that I get the feels everytime i listen to it. “Girl” is the coolest song I’ve ever heard- so unassuming but so catchy, I want a 20 minute remix of it’s haunting beat over and over.
Some might knock the album for recycling a lot of Jamie xx’s older songs, but let’s just assess the album as it stands, people. The track order is a little off to me, as “The Rest Is Noise” sounds like the perfect album closer, yet it’s followed by “Girl” which just ends abruptly. I also am not a fan of the opener “Gosh,” or the middle song “Obvs.” The latter of which sounds like a track from a Super Mario game. I think “Loud Places” would have made a better, more emotional opener for the album.
I won’t waste too much time on explaining how much I don’t like “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times).” It’s a decent beat, and it shows Jamie xx could carve out a decent living as a producer for rappers, but it just doesn’t fit the tone of the album at all. The rest of the album is sad but beautiful, about growing up and apart, and then all of a sudden there is a song with Young Thug screaming about, you guessed it, getting laid. It’s a fun song, but it cheapens an otherwise gorgeous album.
All in all, I feel like the album isn’t perfect, but what’s good on it is SO DAMN GOOD I don’t care. Jamie xx sucessfully delivers what people want right now, yet at the same time it feels like the beginning of a revolution, that so many albums like this are going to follow. Let’s just make sure we never forget the first.
Best Tracks: Sleep Sound, SeeSaw, Loud Places, Girl