Track By Track: Jamie xx’s ‘In Color’

Today, one of the most anticipated releases of 2015 is finally out. Jamie xx has dropped In Color to immediate success and critical acclaim, drawing on his experience with The xx and actually featuring his band mates Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim on tracks, as well as Young Thug and Popcaan on the summer anthem of the year. We couldn’t decide who would review the album between ourselves, so Jack Colquhoun and I went head to head in a track by track review. Here, is In Color.

GOSH
Jack: There couldn’t be a more fitting start to Jamie’s new album than Gosh – it gives a feel of every sort of style that he’s worked with before. The garage style beat riding over the top, heavy use of samples, and the ethereal synths and piano bringing it all together towards the end – it’s like a taste of what you can expect on the whole album. It’s beautiful, and ever since the video for it got released, I always imagine myself flying through space as I’m listening to it.

Emma: What an opener! The garage beats, the textured percussion, that vocal sample, the swelling synths – sublime. The groove that is laid down in Gosh is one that is carried through the entirety of In Color, especially as it becomes almost transcendent in the latter half of the track. Also, if you haven’t seen the video clip for this bad boy, you really should. It fits the imagery provoked in the song so well it’s as if one couldn’t exist without the other.

SLEEP SOUND

Jack: Noticeably different to the original, it’s two and a half minutes shorter, and so it moves through its movements with much more pace. That isn’t to say that it feels rushed though, Jamie’s chosen all the best parts of the original and emphasized them. The opening thirty seconds where it drifts into the beat is absolutely perfect, and he’s chosen to cut the bass heavy ending of the original – something that I think makes the track much more complete.

Emma: I actually prefer this version of Sleep Sound. It’s rich, jam packed and so tight – as is just about everything Jamie has anything to do with. The track is so groovy, but has a slight tinge of melancholy, like the feeling you get when you’re in the club and escaping for a little bit, but you know reality is just outside. Still, you could pull some serious shapes to this!

SEESAW feat. ROMY

Jack: SeeSaw feels like the perfect combination of Jamie’s music and The xx. Romy xx’s vocals swell around the highs and lows of the drums and the synths, but it almost feels like they’re completely separate. Romy is just a narration for the track – commentating your experience of the music rather than interacting with it herself. My experience was bitter sweet – beautiful but sad.

Emma: Ahhhh, Romy, with her beautiful voice that sends shivers up my spine. Even in this sample capacity, her voice swirls and breathes about delicate beats and synth sounds to create one of the more gentle tracks on the album. Her lyrics provoke imagery just as gorgeous as the track itself, light and airy and blushing with a playful attitude.

OBVS

Jack: Jamie kills the steel drums. He absolutely loves them. He used them on All Under One Roof Raving, Far Nearer, and on a whole bunch of tracks on We’re New Here, and he uses them really well. The steel and regular drums, alongside some funky wood-block style percussion builds and slows the track constantly, with synth building it just to the point of climax before dropping it down again. It makes you want to shout out with the sample – it’s so well contained it hurts.

Emma: I love this song. Those steel drums speak to me on a whole other level. Obviously an instrument Jamie favours as it pops up in quite a few tracks, he hardly holds back in his love of the sound here. It’s warm and fun, and makes me want to spin around in an open field. It’s also one of the slightly heavier tracks, incredibly dynamic and so well crafted. Jamie at his best, really.

JUST SAYING

Jack: Just Saying reminds me a lot of I’m New Here. The opening sound is similar, but Just Saying almost sounds like you’re listening to it in a wind tunnel, with all the instruments being whisked away from you and brushing back past your ears. Out of nowhere the piano and these choir vocals come in – and you just want them to explode but they don’t. At a minute and a half long, Just Saying is a tease of a track that I wish could go longer.

Emma: This track is such a tease. You hear everything zooming past you, too quick to catch on, before the piano settles in all eerie and angelic. Just as you feel like it’s about to really take off, with faint echoes of Romy’s lyrics in Loud Places, it finishes leaving you feeling just a little bit cheated and pretty unsettled. He’s keeping you on your toes with this one, making sure you’re paying attention – and you definitely are.

STRANGER IN A ROOM

Jack: Oliver Sim is the other vocal half of The xx, and this track feels not solely like a Jamie xx production, but a collaboration between all members of The xx. Sim plays the very echoed guitar that The xx is known for over Jamie’s building synth, with his voice dominating the sound of the track. The lyrics are very typical of The xx as well – repetition of “You’re just a stranger in room” is like “They would be as in love with you as I am” from their latest release Angels. Hopefully this is the direction that they’re headed in – Jamie and Oli have hit gold with Stranger In A Room.

Emma: Oliver Sim’s vocals sounds so much like Matt Berninger from The National that I actually double checked the track listing to see if it was a mistake. Not only his voice, but his lyrics and phrasing – just as gut-wrenching and forlorn as the American indie heavyweight. This track is beautiful, and again falls into that happy melancholy that I heard in Sleep Sound, albeit it a heavier helping of the melancholy.

HOLD TIGHT

Jack: Hold Tight is probably the loudest song of In Colour. It’s the fastest, with drums remaining constant and samples bouncing off of them constantly, and the synths are constantly building alongside heavy bass and feedback sounds. For the four minutes of Hold Tight, Jamie builds the song sound by sound, before slowly peeling them away from each other in the last minute. It’s crazy and fast and amazing, and the cut of the sirens and sounds of the city at the end makes Hold Tight like Jamie’s comment on the world we live in.

Emma: Hold Tight is superb, with Jamie really flexing his production and beatmaking skills here. Racing forwards, the song builds in tension and anticipation before it breaks and truly takes off. It’s spectacular, with it’s layering, drops, samples and other various noises firing off in the fray. This one will be an absolute ripper live.

LOUD PLACES feat. Romy

Jack: Loud Places is a really strange mix of emotions. Romy sings about a relationship and the things they did in hindsight – “Didn’t I take you to places you couldn’t reach without me?”, bouncing off a vocal sample from Idris Muhammad’s Could Heaven Ever Be Like This – “My heart’s never reached such highs” (fun fact, the sample sample was used in Chrome SparksMarijuana). It’s a really nostalgic and groovy ode to relationships past, but also to those which haven’t happened yet. The samples, the drums, the vocals and the guitar and piano, everything works perfectly. This track is perfect, enough said.

Emma: This song makes me want to cry, it’s so emotional that I can feel the desperation in Romy’s voice as it takes off with that incredible Idris Muhammad sample. It’s totally euphoric and heart wrenching at the same time, and too powerful to process from only just one listen. Although I love this whole album, this is one I keep coming back to.

I KNOW THERE’S GONNA BE GOOD TIMES

Jack: I wish it was Summer. This is the perfect anthem for Summer, like it’s just so unbelievably fun. But then again, it makes me want to have fun no matter where I am, what I’m doing and who I’m with. Jamie’s back again with the steel drums, and Popcaan and Young Thug just work their vocals so so perfectly over the top of it. Some of Thug’s lyrics are a little surprising in a Jamie track – “Ima ride that pussy like a stroller” – but it all fits really well. It’s very different from all the other songs on the album. While some are quite emotional journeys, this is just straight up fun. Cheers to the good timers, this one’s for you.

Emma: Although I never thought I’d hear lyrics like “She gon’ get on top of that dick” in a Jamie xx song, this song is literally the definition of a feel good summer track. Young Thug and Popcaan combined with Jamie makes for a surprising (or not that surprising) match made in heaven, each really standing out on their own. This is a nice little break in an otherwise quite intense body of work, and one that we may actually get sick of hearing because you just know how much it will be played over the next few months.

THE REST IS NOISE

Jack: The Rest Is Noise is kind of like the release of the album. Up until this point, everything had been very controlled, not being too loud or too busy. The Rest Is Noise is the opposite of that. Over the course of five minutes, synth, vocal work, drums, siren samples, piano, and a whole other variety of instruments build on top of one another and interact in a chaotically perfect way. There’s a whole bunch of movements within this one track, each sounding so different to one another, but staying a part of the same idea. It ends as the track slips away, just fading out into the sound of a city.

Emma: As far as typical sounds go, The Rest Is Noise is a typical Jamie xx song in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s still really awesome, because this is Jamie xx we’re talking about. It sounds like he’s wrapping things up, which makes sense as it is the second last track. It’s like a tying of all the loose ends left from the previous tracks – a nice little bit of closure for your ears.

GIRL

Jack: Girl came out alongside Sleep Sound in March of last year. Unlike Sleep Sound, which has had a reboot, Girl is completely the same as it was a year ago. It’s still one of my favourite Jamie xx tracks to date. It just moves in such a groovy and gorgeous way that’s so addictive to listen to. It’s the perfect ending to the album as well. It’s hard to describe, but it just feels so final – with the song and the album as a whole just drifting off into silence.

Emma: This is the song that made me fall in love with Jamie and his music. It’s stunning, and still just as refreshing and different as it first was when it was released last year. It’s one of my favourite songs ever. Play this at my funeral.

SUMMARY

Jack: I don’t think it’s possible for this album to be any better than it already is. I knew that this was going to be one of my favourite albums of the year, even before Gosh got released, and it’s completely delivered on all of my expectations. Whether it’s sadness, straight up fun, nostalgia or some kind of yearning, In Color takes the listener on a journey through all those things. Jamie, this is my album of the year so far and will no doubt be one of my favourite albums of all time. If you’re reading this, thank you for In Color.

Emma: Jamie xx has really outdone himself with In Color. This album has absolutely solidified his place as one of the most innovative and respected artists of this modern era, with this wonderful album full of hidden surprises and emotions. He bares it all whilst baring nothing at all, putting so much in but also working with restraint. There is no question that this is one of the very best albums of 2015, and will have a permanent spot in my music library for many years to come.