Review | The meandering ‘In Colour’ finds Jamie xx still searching for his solo sound
[Young Turks/XL Recordings]
In March of this year, when Jamie xx announced his début studio album In Colour and dropped singles ‘Gosh’, a heavy electro song with an obnoxious yet catchy sample bellowing ‘Oh my gosh‘ repetitively and the heavenly ‘Loud Places’ featuring fellow The xx member and angelic vocalist Romy, I was sceptical. Nothing can be taken away from Jamie xx as a producer. Both The xx albums serve as a gentle reminder of his talent to make a subtle soundscape of steel drums, vocal samples and simple refined sound, yet as a solo artist he has been a little hit and miss. First project ‘We’re New Here’, a genre-mixing remix project borrowing the voice of the late great Gil Scott Heron had its moments but was more filler than banger.
In Colour sadly makes it apparent that Jamie is still in search of his own solo sound. The album is a bit of mismatch of the two sides of Jamie xx. On one hand you have the quiet producer for Mercury Prize-winning London indie pop band The xx who seems to shun the limelight. On the other, a rave master DJ that has brought highly-received BBC & Boiler Room DJ sets to electronic and dance lovers. This makes the album disjointed and it can maybe be put down as an identity crisis of music.
It’s not all bad, there are some good songs scattered throughout In Colour. ‘SeeSaw’ – also featuring Romy – is a faster tempo track but still keeps its ambient feel. Romy’s vocals echo behind a fast drum beat which you wouldn’t expect from the pair but it works and you can’t help but nod along. ‘Obvs’ is as Jamie xx as a song can get really, starting off with his customary Caribbean-esque steel drums and a low bass line that builds slowly but steadily as guitars and vocals blend their way in progressively. Another great track features the other member of The xx, Oliver Sim. ‘Stranger in a Room’ registers as something out of a Tron-like video game soundtrack that would lend itself perfectly to a rave setting.
Standout track ‘I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)’ is the one time where it would seem Jamie xx tested and removed himself from his comfort zone. He does what many a producer has tried and failed by trying to tame the vocal range and mumbling of Atlanta rapper Young Thug, one of the hottest properties in rap currently. The track just works, those familar Caribbean drums alongside an extremely soulful sample hook giving Thug the perfect backdrop to flow off beat, sing out of tune and drop his infamous ‘Sccceeeerrrrrttt’ ad lib on the regular. The song also features Jamaican dancehall artist Popcaan who adds an expected and forgettable bridge that is short lived to say the least but definitely adds an edge to the song.
Not only will recruiting Young Thug lead to a summer banger that will be the soundtrack to many a BBQ in the south of the US, but it’s a smart move from Jamie xx that will undoubtedly help give him what The xx never really got; exposure in America and valued radio airtime. Prior to the Thug collaboration his only real notable material stateside was some production work with Drake on the Rihanna-assisted ‘Take Care’ and some work alongside Alicia keys. A smart business move that will no doubt help boost his solo career overseas.