The man behind most of the music we all loved from The XX has released a solo album, and to say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement.
I don’t tend to enjoy the “mood music” genre made popular by artists like The XX, or Phantogram, but I heard good things and gave The XX a shot. I was impressed. It was a nice departure from the aggressive music culture we have crafted from our endless supply of adderalls and short attention spans. Then I heard about a member of their band making a solo DJ album… “Eh, I’ll pass.”
This album is unbelievably good. I was expecting another aggressive, ear-bleeding DJ spinning piece of shit. Not at all. Every track on it keeps my interest in a different way. Jamie xx has a great blend of hip-hop, dance, pop, and even some of the “mood” music thrown in for good measure. The greatest apprehension I was saddled with going in, was the disappointment in hearing club tracks pounding for the whole 45 minutes of the album. Outside of being drunk in a club, I don’t have many places I want to listen to 45 minutes of headache inducing bass.
That is where Jamie xx sets himself apart. This is a DJ album, but it’s so much more intriguing than anything else. It takes every bit of his influence and turns it slightly on it’s head. The hip-hop is infused with a bit of synth, but not enough to make it seem trite. You are given a totally new blend and it’s beyond anything you could have expected. Even within the same track there are subtle changes that keep everything so absorbing. I imagine this is what they felt like when they first mixed chocolate and peanut butter. It sounds terrible, but try it and your head explodes. Metaphorically of course. But, that’s what is great about this album, there are plenty of chances to totally fuck this up, and it never even comes close.
The added bonus comes with the enlisted help of The XX bandmates Romy and Oliver Sim. Three of the tracks feature vocals from them, giving the album an opening to breathe in what they are all most known for. The made themselves into household names based on their chemistry in The XX. And the chemistry they have crafted from working together for almost a decade now works brilliantly, and it doesn’t get overlooked on “In Colour.”
One complaint. A very small but annoying one: the track titles. Yuck. Reading through the track listing is like being exposed to the Twitter feed of a 17 year old girl. Titles include: “Just Saying”, “Gosh” and “Obvs.” I was expecting to see the title “And Then I was Like…”, perhaps a future B-Side. I know this shouldn’t affect the feeling I have for this album, but I can’t help it. Let’s just move on.
What gets me truly excited is the thought of hearing these tracks live. As much as you want to fight it, this music will just take over. It’s like the music becomes a rushing tide and you are in the middle of the ocean. You can fight it and be miserable, or just accept it and enjoy the ride. Which brings me to another point, this music is meant to be listened to loud. Beyond the “Obv” reason of the bass associated with most tracks, there is an immersion factor this album brings. You have to get lost in it. Just like with The XX, this is mood music. Only instead of being in a mood to enjoy it, “In Colour” puts you in a mood of enjoyment. You can’t really fight it.
Obvs – I have to mention this to people when I tell them the tracks I love, which is probably why I am so pissed about the song title. Similar to the song “Intro” on The XX album. I wish it had a proper title. Anyways, “Obvs” starts off with a steel drum sound, but then exemplifies why I am so impressed with this album. It morphs ever so slightly with different tempos, added bass, and a bit of synth as well. It’s the perfect track to showcase why Jamie xx is so good.
Loud Places – I just missed Romy. She has that unmistakable breathy voice I have fallen in love with. She even reaches some really high notes I didn’t know she was capable of. Musically very interesting as well. Starting off with what sounds like glasses being hit by a fork and crescendos with a gospel chorus. Reading back what I just wrote, it seems like the strangest song of all time, but that’s the whole point with this album. Jamie xx explores what doesn’t make sense and turns it into something spectacular.
Great job by you Jamie xx. One of the most surprisingly great albums I have ever heard.
Jamie xx can be seen at Majestic Theatre on August 5th – Tickets here