Musical Sidenote: Jamie Lidell – Compass

It’s been a little bit since I’ve heard from Jamie Lidell–but he’s apparently been keeping busy.  He’s been working with artists like Grizzly Bear bassist and producer Chris Taylor, and Wilco keyboardist Pat Sansone to help prep for his upcoming album, Compass (dropping May 18).  JL also enlisted the help of Beck who shares production and writing credits on at least one track, while also welcoming back singer/songwriter Leslie Feist and keyboard maestro Gonzales, both of whom have performed and recorded with JL in past efforts.  Rounded out with appearances by producer/keyboardist Brian Lebarton, singer Nikka Costa and legendary session drummer James Gadsen, Compass takes shape.  Do we have enough keyboards going on? After a quick listen, the concept begins to take shape.

My initial reaction to this album was seeing a mixture of JL’s last two previous albums Jim and Multiply fusing together to create some sort of electronic-funky-soul-R&B hybrid.  You can feel the vintage synthesizers reminiscent of the 80’s and at the same time the distinctly unique sound manipulations, showcasing an important musical facet of the future. Blend it all together and you get a beautiful thing.

The catchy intro track “Completely Exposed” starts off with an electronic beatbox that quickly evolves into bumping beats chalk full of soul infused vocals and distortions.  I enjoy JL’s choice to lead off with this track because it instantly sucked me in, and all I can think about is how much fun this song would be to hear live. A more distorted Jamie Lidell chimes in with “Your Sweet Boom” bringing in more elements of a much more modern electric funk, playing more and more like the hybrid of sounds and concepts from both Jim and Multiply.  Bringing it down some–“She Needs Me” throws a beautiful break into the album, with a rhythm & blues jam that’s even more melodic than a “Green Light” or “All I Wanna Do” track. It’s the longest track on the album ringing in at 5:55, and well worth a few listens on loop.

JL doesn’t stay in the R&B gear too long, “I Wanna Be Your Telephone” brings it right back to central thesis of electric funk, creating the aura of being in an 80’s break dancing video, with 80’s Prince-like guitar riffs and synthesizer-drenched beats.  And while the album progresses, it seems like Jamie is digressing in decade vibes as “Enough is Enough” sounds more like a fun and carefree 70’s tune.  “The Ring” features some of JL’s best songwriting and provides a first single for the album.  “You Are Waking” returns once again to a brilliant funk and electronica breakdown where he simmers for the next couple of tracks, at times bringing in a Funkadelic ambiance.  “Compass” in particular stands out as the one lone track with beautiful acoustic guitar composition and the absence of much vocal or instrumental distortion (albeit a minor build in the middle). It’s another beautifully placed track in the album, providing genre splits that divide the record at key points.  “Gypsy Blood” has a real fun way about it, changing modes at interesting times, and even though it’s only a two-minute gem, it’s enough to feel like another perfect buffer between differing sounds.

On the whole, Compass is really all about direction–JL set up the track-listing on the album superbly, creating a listening experience that should be an archetype for good records.  By that, I mean bringing the album in with a catchy track and being able to keep up that energy throughout the second, before bringing it down a little for the third.  Ebb and flow dictates your auditory senses and by the time you get through the first several tracks, you’ve sampled a generous variety of sounds that tie a record together and give it a truly distinguished identity.  I believe JL pulls it off quite nicely.  My hope is this album creates more buzz around Jamie’s ridiculous talent and brings him more into music’s spotlight this year.  Looking at his tour dates, he’s not making many stops in the US, so if you want to see him, make sure you’re on a coast in the next couple of months. In the meantime, I’ll save you a spot in line on May 18th.

Compass

The Ring –

Compass –

Tracklist
01. Completely Exposed
02. Your Sweet Boom
03. She Needs Me
04. I Wanna Be Your Telephone
05. Enough’s Enough
06. The Ring
07. You Are Waking
08. I Can Love Again
09. It’s a Kiss
10. Compass
11. Gypsy Blood
12. Coma Chameleon
13. Big Drift
14. You See My Light

A-