There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that, after the minimalistically phenomenal pop debut by the XX in their first, self-titled, LP and an uneven, but nonetheless solid follow-up with 2012’s Coexist, that Jamie XX is one talented young artist. Having produced both of the XX albums all the while releasing a full remix of Gil Scott-Heron’s last recorded album, I’m New Here, under the title We’re New Here, which saw widespread acclaim that nearly matched that of the original album, Jamie XX has finally released his first full-length debut, In Colour.
So, what exactly is this album about? How does the music sound like? What was the direction Jamie XX took this album in? Well, to be honest, I’m not quite sure. One could describe this as a pop album, heavily influenced by dance music, and they wouldn’t be too far off, particularly when songs like Loud Places and I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times) are two of the strongest songs on the album, and unsurprisingly the album’s leading single, but to do so would actually be a disservice to the album and perhaps even a bit misleading. Why? Well, for starters, Gosh sounds nothing like your average pop song. It’s a full blown dance song through and through, sampling a clip from a BBC Radio 1 programme that Jamie stumbled upon, blaring its way through the instruments as the song slowly builds up and more and more sounds are added to the song, giving it an almost claustrophobic feeling towards the end of it, before Jamie XX retracts in the last few seconds to give the listener some air to breath.
Gosh, however, is not the only song on the album that could open up a DJ set or even be requested at your local club. Hold Tight falls in line with this style as well, with a DJ interrupting the song as it’s building up to give a shout out to multiple different “crews”, as if to incentivate the people on the dancefloor to start giving in to the rythm and dance, while The Rest Is Noise builds up with a more introspective, intimate, slower take on the dancing matter, sounding outright beautiful at points.
However, as I’ve mentioned, these songs are right in the middle of house-influence pop songs that stick out from the rest of the tracklist, but not for a bad reasong. I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times), drawing heavily from reggaeton, ebbs and flows with careless optimism, as Young Thug and Popcaan sing about going out, having fun, and being with your friends before the song concludes as Popcaan remarks that the song “was good, we enjoyed it, [even though] we never used to like reggaeton”. Loud Places, on the other hand, doesn’t stray too far away from the dance genre, as Remy (vocalist for the XX) sings about a lost love and looking for intimacy in loud places, but isn’t afraid to step away from the more conventional dance tropes and go for a loud, harmony-filled chorus, sampling away from the wonderful Idris Muhammad song Could Heaven Ever Be Like This.
Incidentally, the song’s theme happens to be a summarization of the album’s overarching theme: It’s not just about dancing and going out and having a good time. It’s not just about the clean instrumentation or the building beats. It’s also about the search for intimacy, love, and being alone in the loudest places. Jamie isn’t afraid to show his emotions throughout the album, from the sad lonerism from Stranger In a Room to the wonderful, bittersweet conclusion in Girl, as Jamie once again resorts to sampling to echo throughout the song “I want your love / Give me your love”.
In the end, In Colour is a wonderfully disjointed debut that serves as a platform for Jamie to show through all the influences he has picked up in his short career. This is Jamie’s vision of dance music, something beautifully intimate and minimalistic, with occasional breathing moments here and there. All in all, In Colour was 2015’s strongest debut and is hopefully a sign of great things to come for Jamie XX.