Album review: Jamie xx – In Colour

Dance music is joyful. That’s kind of obvious. What’s less apparent is the melancholy that lurks below the surface. On the lead single from In Colour, Jamie xx reminds us of this: “I go to loud places, to search for someone, to be quiet with, who will take me home.” As Hua Hsu points out in his New Yorker review: “It’s a gorgeous reminder of why some people go out in the first place: so they never have to go out again.” Dance music is ultimately an escape, and anyone who’s experienced the live-for-the-moment highs of clubs is well-aware of how fleeting and manufactured the ecstasy feels the next morning. Our selective memory keeps us going back, but there is an understanding these moments are unsustainable.

Those competing strains of vibrancy and melancholy are ever-present in Jamie xx’s debut. The album is aptly named – the soaring synths and signature steel drums blanket the album with life and color colour. Gosh sounds like a buddhist meditation for ravers, and The Rest is Noise is simply euphoric. But these gorgeous soundscapes are matched by a self-aware quality that provides depth behind the joyful noise. It’s not dark so much as honest. Stranger in a Room acknowledges the familiar feeling of isolation in a large crowd, and Hold Tight sounds more like the hangover than the party. He doesn’t dwell in these moments but rather he weaves them into the narrative. 

Jamie xx’s music is immediately accessible yet complex enough to demand repeat listens. That’s a rare combination that I believe only great acts are able to achieve. He does another thing the greats have a knack for: bridging past and present sounds, while forging the future. A reverence for old-school British rave culture dovetails with zeitgeisty moments like the surprisingly cohesive Young Thug feature on I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times). Then on songs like Loud Places and Gosh, Jamie carves out his own space, creating sounds that already feel like touchstones the next generation will be compelled to reference.

I like this album by the way.

In Colour is now streaming as a visual album via iTunes. 

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HANGOUT FESTIVAL 2015

Location: Gulf Shores, AL

Date: 5/15/2015-5/17/2015

Rating: 4.0/5

As we flew out of the Tampa Bay airport and into a thunder-fillled Thursday night, our flight attendant prayed over the PA system, “rain, rain, go away, y’all come out some other day.” Despite a high likelihood of storms all weekend, we dropped into Gulf Shores, Alabama under clear skies and the rain never did come back. And instead the sun showered down on the people and beaches of Hangout Fest.

Favorite Highlight:

Umphrey’s McGee – “The Show Goes On (feat. Lupe Fiasco)”

A jam band staple at festivals all over the U.S., UMG showcased their talents with elongated guitar solos that began as simple ideas and flourished into percussive, head-spinning solos. It may be a product of the EDM scene, but UMG’s take on the “drop” was creative and economic. The band used them sparingly, and each time it was employed, it was for a different musical reason. Sometimes, it marked the beginning of a new song, or meant the entrance of a new instrument, and another time it would allow them to cut off an improvisation that had exceeded its time. The highlight of the show was the unexpected drop-in of Lupe Fiasco, towards the end of their day set. To the tune of “The Show Goes On” from his album Lasers, the crowd was happily surprised. See video below:

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Small Concert Standout:

Houndmouth- “For No One”

We have posted about Houndmouth on RunTheMill before, and had high hopes for this quirky, but sensational Louisville and Indiana-fostered band. Garbed in a full cape, the lead singer led a fanatic small crowd through its newest album Little Neon Limelight. And it was a particularly fun to hear it amongst southerners. A new favorite cut was “Black Gold:”

Favorite Cover: 

Zac Brown Band- “Bohemian Rhapsody

This is not the first time ZBB has covered Queen, (iHeart Radio Music Festival 2014), but when every person knows the lyrics out of 10,000 person audience, it is usually not a bad time. No video from Hangout, but enjoy the previous version below:

Biggest Letdown:

Jack U (Diplo & Skrillex)

Flying high off their recent album featuring cuts with the likes of Justin Bieber, I was underwhelmed by Jack U’s overall set. It’s peaks were short-lived, and overshadowed by foreseeable drops. I think the set suffered from too much hype, too little preparation, and a lack of flow and diversity that usually allows Diplo and Skrillex to stand out from the EDM crowd. In fact, Major Lazer’s set later on in the festival demonstrated that sometimes the whole is not always greater than the sum of its parts.

Best Surprise Group:

San Fermin – Emily

  • Ever since I heard the song “Sonsick,” I knew San Fermin had an interesting, poignant story to tell that could cut through the constant music chatter. That being said, I was blown away by the musical chops and stage presence of the San Fermin group. The standout new single from the show that we happened to walk upon was, “Emily,” which showcases composer and song-writer Ellis Ludwig Leone’s natural tenor voice, and his penchant for tight arrangement and orchestration.

Concerts we attended:

Day 1:

Foo Fighters

Jack U

Umphrey’s McGee (featuring Lupe Fiasco)

Galactic with Macy Gray

Houndmouth

Gramatik

Trampled by Turtles

Roddy Walston & The Business

Day 2

Zac Brown Band

Queen’s Under Pressure Bohemian Rhapsody

Major Lazer

Odesza

Future Islands

The Mowgli’s

San Fermin

The Helio Sequence – “Red Shifting” & “Leave or Be Yours”

A description about The Helio Sequence’s new creative adjustment on their new self-titled sixth album (out today, May 12th) can be found here at Sub Pop’s website. In summary, the group forced themselves to write these songs within a strict set of time instead of laboring towards perfection over a elongated period of time. This new approach forced the group into “…taking the good with the bad, of letting creativity push past constraint, of simply making music in the moment.” This can be seen throughout the album, as the songs have a much more natural flow than in the previous album Negotiations (2012). The formats of these songs are not as intricately woven, and I think it helps The Helio Sequence’s sound become more inviting, and less dependent on electronic manipulation. Check out the song “Red Shifting” below and the romance-themed “Leave or Be Yours:”

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Soft Sleep – “Unravel”

“Unravel” is filled with a late 90’s “Goo Goo Dolls”-like romanticism, pairing acoustic guitar strums against soft approachable melodies. “Unravel” is slow, but doesn’t drag. The chorus accelerates the pacing, and the verses retract that energy.  Make sure you keep an eye out for the release of this Seattle Band’s self-titled EP in May 2015 on Rocket Heart Records.

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