Upon listening to this album, it’s crystal clear that Jamie xx and Jamie Smith of the xx are not the same person. Jamie xx is more upbeat, albeit still moody and unapologetic. These characteristics, thankfully, are the perfect tools to compose his debut album In Colour, a stunning dance record for people who feel things more deeply, and, more humorously, think that dancing is mainstream.
Despite the record having a name that evokes vivid mirages and phantasmagoria, In Colour, at times, sounds moody, distant, and dark. The glittering, euphoric, and happier components of the tracks constantly gnaw at the edges, wanting to be closer to the core of each staggering beat, and yet, the compelling nature of darkness pushes it away time and time again. “Sleep Sound” is a good example of this beautiful contradiction, considering it’s melodic, arcade sounding intro that suddenly morphs into an eerie landscape initiated by spoken word. “Obvs” includes the unique tintinnabulation of steel drums, but is played in a such a way that it does not become distracting; instead it provides a hopeful context that slowly diminishes with constant, deafening drums. There’s an emphasis on sampling as well, as opener “Gosh” demonstrates. It’s a good representative for the album as a whole, considering that it builds itself up with layer upon layer of rich beats and synth. Tracks like “Hold Tight” show off Jamie xx’s abilities to have a lead foot on the gas pedal while also managing to portray finesse and grace. They just race forward, not stopping for anything, and that sort of prowess is what is desired in a genre as unforgiving as electronic dance music. However, that’s perhaps the only issue with In Colour. Some tracks elongate the time spent waiting for anything substantial to happen in terms of the overall beat. “The Rest is Noise” and “Just Saying” seem to be the main examples of this, and while the complaint is well formulated, I see it more as the necessary filler tracks in between the songs with actual vocals.
Speaking of which, it was refreshing to see Jamie xx go back to his roots and include tracks with vocals by band mates Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim. Romy’s tracks, “SeeSaw” and single “Loud Places” are absolutely stunning, and, more importantly, show off just how much he knows her voice and what it can do; as a result, the tracks are a reflection of Croft’s own personality. “Stranger in a Room” is perhaps the most minimalist and also the most stunning of the sung tracks because it effortlessly surrounds Sim’s deep, passionate voice without drowning it out. This goes back to Smith’s knowledge of Sim and how he works, and it makes the track that much more meaningful and personal.
It was also nice to see his single “Girl” as the closer, considering that it was some of his best work. It shows Smith’s true feelings and love for his past work, and because of this, the emotion adds to the overall sense of honesty and purity that this album thrives on.
photo courtesy of The Guardian