Desktop users can click the button at the top right corner to listen to music from this album while reading the review. Mobile users scroll for content.
It is hard to believe that we are finally listening to a Jamie xx solo release, even more shocking is the incredible hype that has continually surrounded this producer and his body of work. Many know Jamie xx – Jamie Smith as the percussionist and producer behind the wildly popular indie group The xx. Those that know him for his solo work are more familiar with his outstanding remixes and notoriously miniscule output or his hand in writing and producing the smash Drake and Rhianna track “Take Care”.
The promotion and lead up to this release has been as secretive as Jamie himself with early singles “Girl” and “Sleep Sound” being promoted under a pseudonym on James Blake’s radio residency on BBC Radio 1. It was not until after a couple of months of fans sitting on these tracks was it revealed that they are Jamie xx tracks, and even further was the announcement that they are singles on an upcoming album. When the track list was revealed ,eyebrows across the internet were raised. Many of the tracks have been floating around for almost a year, obvious collaborations with the other xx members, and a feature from eccentric rapper Young Thug and Jamaican Dancehall icon Popcaan could’ve have spelled disaster for less talented producers. Jamie xx was not only successful in bringing joy and happiness to bleak genres like future garage, and post – dubstep, but in crafting one of the most memorable and enjoyable electronic albums of the year.
The album art perfectly captures the intent of this album and all the sides of Smith. In the corner of all his singles and releases is a white rectangle featured on the bottom left over a solid pastel color. The rectangle is a callback to his work in the xx as one of the 4 original members, representing one of the 4 sides to an X. The rainbow of colors featured on In Colour’s art are a callback to all the pastel colors featured on early releases. The entire concept lets us know that this work is a culmination of everything he has done so far. Like Smiths music its is successful at being both subtle and bombastic.
One of Smiths biggest accomplishments during his solo career has been crafting his own unique and unmistakable “sound”. Most of his tracks consist of steel drums, time stretched vocals and a beat pattern known to some as “the Jamie xx shuffle” that takes the best elements of Jungle, and '90s rave. As predictable as all of this sounds, Smith’s work always is consistently top notch because of his expert use of texture and melody. Every track on In Colour breathes and feels extremely organic, a virtue that is normally harder to find on a producers debut full length. From the ground shaking sub bass on the opener "Gosh", to the swirling horns on the closer "Girl", In Colour sounds gleefully alive.
As old as "Sleep Sound" and "Girl" are, they both still manage to sound fresh and make fantastic centerpieces to a beautiful album, both displaying Smiths strengths front and center. "Sleep Sound" is a continuation on the ideas featured on the breathtaking “Far Nearer”. "Girl" closes out the album with some incredible choir samples that sound like howling wind. It is a phenomenal closer that is sure to leave the listener with a lasting impression of Smiths talents. "Loud Places" is an absolute bombshell of a track. Featuring xx member Romy Croft, it is an incredible departure from anything either of them have done before. Its bright, its joyful, a true summertime anthem. It is a complete opposite from the dark and brooding heartbreaking tracks that The xx are known for. During interviews the members of The xx have said they are spending time in Texas working on their next full length and that would explain the warmness and inspiration found here. On the opposite side of the spectrum is the weakest track “Stranger in a Room” which like a gloomy xx B-side that does not really fit with the general aesthetics of the album. Luckily, it is just a small cloud on a very bright piece of work.
Another album highlight is the track "Seesaw", which some recognize the much talked about collaboration with Four-Tet. Both artists have similar sounds and production techniques so their paring makes a perfect fit. The track has been updated since its initial inception and vocals from Romy Croft have been added in and are a cherry atop an already delicious song. As mentioned above, the feature from Young Thug and Popcaan show up on the track "I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)". Smith shows his range as a producer and the strengths of the genres he is working with the results are shockingly good. Young Thug is known for his outrageous sound effects and Smith does a wonderful job of manipulating thugs mannerisms and weaving them right into the soul of the track. More outrageous is the lyrical content when Thug exclaims “Imma ride in that pussy like a stroller”. Every verse is more flamboyant and splashy than the one before.
In Colour is so well crafted that it is a stretch to find a complaint. There are two types of great albums, ones that are the sum of its parts and work as a singular piece of work, and albums that are filled with memorable tracks that are instantly recognizable on the second listen. What makes In Colour such an incredible album is that it works on both ends. It flows and has a unified vision of what bright Future Garage and UK Garage should sound like, and is filled with unforgettable cuts that are able to sound both sound current yet absolutely timeless.