Sunday Sounds: Dreaming In Colour with Jamie xx

In ColourIn an interview ahead of the xx’s sophomore album Coexist, Jamie xx said it would be a dance-inspired album, and I thought, “Finally!” But when I heard it, I spent the 40-minute length of the record waiting in vain for the breakdown. There’s so much restraint, and much of the record is spent hovering in an area that feels on the brink of a breakdown, a sudden emotional outpouring. Not necessarily a drop, but a release. But Coexist never released, which is okay, because there wasn’t ever a point where the music built up to a point that would make a drop meaningful. It would just turn out to be a soft landing, like rolling off a couch…onto another couch.

It was clear, then, that I was waiting for something that wasn’t going to happen. I stopped trying to place The xx in a category they didn’t belong in. I embraced the restraint in their music, and felt like I understood it better, and liked it a lot more.

I’m pretty sure it was around the same time that rumors began to surface about Jamie putting his own album together. This was promising. He’d already provided a glimpse of his dance music capabilities with his collaboration with Gil-Scott Heron, as well as in his remixes, most notably Florence + The Machine’s “You’ve Got the Love.” The prospect of Jamie going wherever he wanted to go, being in complete control made me giddy.

When you look at Jamie xx’s discography from the 2009 release of The xx’s debut through 2014, then add remixes, and his production work for other artists, the man has been a workhorse. It makes me feel a little sheepish about what was essentially standing with my arms crossed and tapping my toes to express my impatience in having to wait so long for a his solo album to come out.

Eventually, rumors were replaced by confirmations from Jamie himself, then the day finally came when he announced the details and release date of his new album, after posting a long series of single-colored color swatches on Instagram, each accompanied by their hex value. He also dropped four of the eleven songs on the LP, including “Gosh.”

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“Gosh” was, and is the kind of song and sound I was waiting years for. The garage break-beat, the vocal samples of MC’s and DJ’s, it’s all perfectly fitted together.

Speaking of fitting: in terms of proportions, I have a fairly strange body. I’m quite tall, and all torso, so I’m constantly battling with standard-sized shirts. I don’t know if you know this, but “Big and Tall” clothing is typically both big and tall, not one or the other. Even if I find a shirt that’s long enough, I’m usually swimming in cotton and wind up looking like the kid who borrowed his dad’s clothing. It’s awkward, but I do my best to ignore it. One fateful day, as if the universe had a surplus of mercy, it was brought to my attention that the shirt I should be wearing is a medium-tall. And also, that’s actually a size that’s available without having to pay a tailor.

The first time I put a medium tall shirt, I was elated. It was the exact amount of material necessary to completely cover me. I’d never felt that before. Hearing “Gosh” for the first time gave me the same elation that the medium tall shirt instilled just last year. They’re both exactly as they should be. Truth be told, the remainder of In Colour is a lot like that shirt.

Now, if the shirt happened to have a rigid, itchy tag on the inside that scratched and nagged the back of your neck, it wouldn’t ruin the entire shirt, but it would detract from it. As it happens, my medium tall shirt did not have such a tag. Unfortunately, “In Colour” does have such a tag, and it’s called, “I know there’s gonna be (good times),” and the real source of the aggravation is the two verses by Young Thug.

It’s such a peculiar choice for a collaboration. On the surface, and in listening to (suffering through) their collaboration a number of time, it seems they’re polar opposite. Jamie xx makes subdued and carefully calculated dance music, only to have YT shit all over it with a line like, “Ima ride that pussy like a stroller.” It’s not that I’m a prude, but if you’re going to say shit like that, you should probably have a more interesting delivery than the “shitty, yelling know-it-all kid that your friends bring to a wedding because he already burned through their pool of available babysitters.”

Other highlights include the pair of songs featuring Romy on vocals, “SeeSaw” and “Loud Places.” The latter was released with an beautiful video of the two skateboarding throughout London before a series of pretty shots with rainbow confetti, and slow motion, with a lot of smiles.

In many ways, “In Colours” is everything you’d expect from a Jamie xx album. Overall, the sound is muted, favors lower frequencies over higher, the rhythms are irregular, and the overall tone is morose, but hopeful. It is by no means a traditional dance record, it is not easily accessible, and it takes a while to hear everything that’s going on in each song. All good things. It’s refreshing to hear something that takes time to unfold and open up.

If you’re a fan of Four Tet, Jon Hopkins, Thom Yorke, or even Odesza, you should give this record a few listens. Oh, who am I kidding, if you know any of those names, you  already know (and love) Jamie xx, and waiting for the completion and release of this album will have been a monumental exercise in patience. And, not unlike a child on Christmas morning, you’ll surely be elated with what you unwrap.

This Sunday, reconsider your expectations. It’s likely that there’s someone in your life who you expect will change, who will alter their course or their way of doing things because you believe that’s what they should do. Maybe they should, maybe they shouldn’t, but you know what? They probably won’t, and really, that’s okay. Give that person room to figure things out, because they’ll likely surprise you. Keep in mind, it could take like years to come to fruition, but it will be so, so worth it:

“My debut album ‘In Colour’ is out today. This record represents the last seven years of my life, on tour with the xx , DJing all over the world and working at home in London. Thanks to everyone who has listened or come to see me play. I hope you enjoy it.”

Jamie xx

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