Jamie Smith, aka Jamie xx has had his name floating around since 2009 when his band released their breakthrough self titled debut “The xx.”
In the next year, he began doing remixes for big name acts like Adele, Florence + The Machine and Radiohead while snatching up production credits for Drake’s “Take Care” and doing a full remix album for Gil Scott-Heron entitled “We’re New Hear.”
With all this under his belt, it’s hard to believe that “In Colour” is his first proper solo album. Thankfully, all this production experience let’s Jamie xx knock it out of the park on his first outing.
“In Colour” captures the sounds and feelings of a night out in London clubs, opening with the tense groove of “Gosh,” which turns the rushed atmosphere and dialogue of weekend traffic into an upbeat, if not slightly ominous banger. About halfway through, the bass opens up for a long, sustained figure, filling the listener with good vibes as a euphoric bit of noise becomes a minimal, nostalgically imperfect synth solo. A sea of wordless, looping voices outline the pretty melodies of “Sleep Sound” while the groove builds with various synths and samples, creating intricate polyrhythms before ending on a Beach Boys a cappella cadence.
xx band mate Romy Madley Croft appears out of the reverb with touching, echoing vocals while Four Tet makes an appearance coproducing SeeSaw, a hazy and heartbreaking electro ballad that builds and breaks with ease, bobbing heads before disappearing into the distorted steel drum chords of “Obvs.” The track is simple, tense and atmospheric, building on the emotional, focused vibe of the previous three tracks before hitting the ambient catharsis of “Just Saying,” which breaks up the record, giving us enough time to breath before we hit the plucky synths of “Stranger In a Room,” which (thanks to Oliver Sims vocals) could have easily been one of the stronger features on the xx’s sophomore effort “Coexist.”
The last half of the record finds a nice balance between the laid-back house grooves of “Hold Tight,” the confessional ballad of “Loud Places,” the good-time swagger of “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times),” the textural, emotional build of “The Rest Is Noise” and closing with the swinging cool of “Girl.” I wouldn’t call “In Colour” a concept album, but it follows a thematic story line that takes you to the club and back home, perfectly capturing the sounds and euphoria of club culture in a fresh yet nostalgic fashion.
It’s fun and engrossing, emotional and stripped down, and while it’s sleepy minimalism might be a little laid back for those looking for the next dance floor rager, it’s dreamy atmosphere and gorgeous textures more than make up for its lack of head pounding brostep or experimental glitches. This is not to say that the record doesn’t take its chances, it’s just so well put together that nothing feels forced or out of place.
The whole album flows so gracefully from one song to another that it’s hard to believe that he pieced it together from unfinished tracks over the past six years. Admittedly, “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” instantly timestamps the record with Young Thug’s raucous verses, but it does its job to lighten the mood of “Loud Places” and together, the two songs (along with “Stranger In a Room”) remind us why we go to clubs in the first place.
All in all, “In Colour” is a masterful debut that hits all its marks with a careful ease and a confident, confessional sense of cool. It doesn’t rely on crazy production tricks or out of place guest spots to fill the gaps. Instead, it opts for old school filter sweeps and warm, alluring synths and samples to create a gorgeous evolving soundscape that will captivate the listener through every listen.
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