I can’t stop listening to this album.
Artist: Jamie xx
Album: In Colour
Label: Young Turks
There’s a word in German – Sehnsucht – that could be said to mean thoughts about areas of life that are imperfect, alongside a yearning for an imagined or dreamed alternative. Sampling doesn’t generally provide such a deep philosophical path towards introspection. Neither does going to a club, usually. But there might be those moments, where you look around in the crowd, and realize you’re looking for someone or something that may or may not be there, or even exist. A certain wistful awareness might seep in with the echoing silence that rings in your ears as the night ends and the streets are empty as you head homewards, feet aching, watching the sun rising.
In Colour manages to trap those uncertain moments, tracing lines musically to samples that stretch back into the mediatized past. It’s an echo chamber where a snippet of sound or a rocksteady infused chorus can be enough to set in motion an entire chain of real or false memories of a life that may or may not exist. You don’t have to like the xx to appreciate the album, although Romy Madley Croft’s vocals on “Loud Places” may be enough to start you thinking about what the next xx album is going to be like. Yet there’s a sense that this release is Jamie’s statement of independence, a confession that his heart is with the soul and dance beats that infuse this record with an unexpectedly expressive beauty. When she sings “I go to loud places/to search for someone/to be quiet with/who will take me home” while the ex is looking for someone who will take them higher than she did, it’s beyond irony – instead it’s an acknowledgment of the lack of connection in the midst of the crowd, the loneliness in the middle of the party, in the middle of the city. The plaintive repeated guitar feels sharp like a pain you can’t erase, even as the chorus gets us up and on our feet again, carrying on through it all, the ‘dancing with tears in my eyes’ of an even earlier decade.
In Colour is an album you could spend hours unpicking, discussing samples and references. Or you could slip on your headphones, and turn down the harsh call of the outside world.