A packed nightclub can be the loneliest place in the universe — a paradox that Jamie xx instinctively understands. As the producer and DJ has risen to prominence beyond his role as the behind-the-boards maestro for the xx, Jamie xx knows that his sold-out sets are packed with single hearts seeking to kindle (or rekindle) a booze-fueled flame. Thus, with his debut record, In Colour, Jamie xx has handcrafted a brilliant sonic love letter tailored to these lonely club kids.
Placing “Gosh” at In Colour’s onset is a bit of a false alarm. The opening song is a slow-burning, expansive banger that doesn’t set the album’s pace so much as it serves as the climax of a party already too far gone. “Sleep Sound” serves as the instant comedown after “Gosh’s” high — all two-step thumps and tone-shifted samples fading in and out. And “Obvs,” with its bubbling keyboard line transplanted straight from Ibiza, plods with a similar sedation.
Though Jamie xx’s exclusively instrumental tracks are masterfully constructed, every second skittering with vibrancy, In Colour truly gleams when he has vocalists express the internal monologues that the electronic artist can’t voice with a drum machine or a turntable. “Seesaw,” for example, is overwhelming, its kinetic breakbeats drowning xx vocalist Romy’s ruminative pining. Yet the track expresses the sheer heartbreak of witnessing an ex-lover with someone new at the club, almost like a spiritual sequel to Robyn’s still-amazing “Dancing on My Own.”
Romy’s pillow-talk vocals are given proper dues in the stunning “Loud Places.” The same steel drums that smothered her vocals in “Seesaw” are uplifting here. Couple their sound with a triumphantly soulful gospel sample, and Romy reaches the stratosphere, delivering the final blow to a distant lover too drugged out to care: “When you come down / I won’t be around.”
It’s fitting, then, that Jamie xx slots the Jamaican dancehall-influenced “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” immediately after “Loud Places.” The song itself is a new-era “That’s What Friends Are For” for the party set, featuring a crass pun about strollers, courtesy of rap’s resident weirdo and lyrical genius Young Thug. But its placement near the tail end of In Colour is a symbolic guarantee that no matter what happens at the party or the club, there will be good times ahead.
By seamlessly fusing the type of cinematic ballads he concocted in the xx with his own global adventures as a DJ in In Colour, Jamie xx has crafted a winning dance record that contains multitudes: Melancholy torch songs go hand in hand with visceral rave anthems, and lonely hearts everywhere have a new soundtrack for nights on the town.
Contact Joshua Bote at [email protected].