London producer Jamie XX finally releases debut solo album. Luckily it was worth the wait. In the wider scheme of things, this is a big release. Like them or loath them The XX, since pervading into music six years ago, have had a massive impact on the UK music scene. Their brand of minimal, electronica and dream pop textures has seen a slew of imitators and XXX. Almost as soon that they arrived, and their music dissected fans have been calling for a solo album by their Svengali Jamie Smith, professionally known as Jamie XX. Gaining this level of notoriety in such a short space of time isn’t easily done, but through tirelessly releases, exquisitely produced tracks and with flawless remixes his name: a legend was born.
In 2011 Smith dipped his toes in the water, by releasing his debut single ‘Fear Nearer/Beat For’ after across the board critical acclaim he got to work on more solo material, while writing and producing the second XX album. Last year Smith released two singles, ‘Girl/Sleep Sound’ and ‘All Under One Roof Raving’, again to universal applause. Now he has finally released his debut album In Colour.
Gosh kicks things off in fine form, after a barrage of breakbeats a vocal simple sample, a motif for not only for this track but the rest of the album, simply repeats “Oh my Gosh”. Is this toasting sample saying “Gosh” because the track is a total beast, or in shock that In Colour has actually been released? Either way it’s a fitting start to the album. Last year’s ‘Sleep Sound’ is up next and despite hearing it a LOT since its release it still sounds fresh and exciting. ‘SeeSaw’ features the first appearance from XX bandmate Romy Madley Croft, while there is nothing wrong with this track the loops and beats are class, it feels a little safe. Almost like Smith was missing a track with a deadline looming and called up an old friend to help out.
‘Obvs‘ is one of the standout tracks, taking a steel drum loop (why aren’t they used more?), Obvs more than makes up for the damp squid of SeeSaw. While Obvs doesn’t really go anywhere special, it doesn’t need to as it’s all about understatement. ‘Stranger in a Room’ features his other XX colleague Oliver Sim, and again it feels too easy. It sounds like Islands 2.0. Yawn… Hold Tight is one of the darker and more murky productions on the album. The beats are submerged below the surface by tweaking and fading. ‘I know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)’ shows that Smith is capable of playing around with soul and R&B, creating possible the poppiest moment of the album.
The only real downsides here are the three tracks that his XX cohorts appear on, their inclusion is too obvious and overstated. If I’d wanted to listen to The XX, which I don’t, I would have played either of their albums. Personally I would rather have had two tracks in the same vein as the other eight that make up this album these are exciting non-formulaic productions not just mere outtakes or preludes to the next XX album.
That being said, what In Colour does best is showcase, yet again, why Smith is one of the most in demand producers and remixes at the moment. His deft touch and subtle flourishes call to mind a by gone age in dance music when you were limited by technology and had to work around that to create something remarkable. Compared to the stark monochrome world of The XX, this album lives up to its name. Everything is bright and in everlasting Technicolour.