The world is never ready for a new Jamie Lidell album. Jamie Lidell is his fourth record following his work as Super Collider with Cristian Vogel, and ever since Multiply, his 2005 return to solo work, Lidell has been pushing the envelope of his music landscape further and further into oblivion. At the time, the world didn’t get Multiply. The odd dichotomy of soul and experimental electronica was jarring and obtuse, and as it was Lidell’s first attempt at throwing the two together, it’s understandably a thought in progress. With the 2008 follow up Jim, Lidell picked a nickname to name the style he’d begun to define all on his own. Jim’s memorable singles like “A Little Bit of Feel Good” and “Figured Me Out” solidified his soul fan-base, but once again, things changed dramatically with 2010’s Compass, where he returned to the equal balance between experimental and soul for a more polished attempt. With every record, Lidell has consistently redefined himself in a progressive and logical way that has always stayed one step ahead of the curve. But his timing with the new record is of special significance. As we know from 2012’s star artists like How To Dress Well, Frank Ocean, and The Weeknd, R&B is coming into vogue. Lidell also knows that retro is always cool, so with Jamie Lidell he’s combined the two to create a self-titled, self-explanatory record that sparkles with as much danceability as it does self-assessment. This record, more than ever, defines what Jamie Lidell is all about: pushing the limits of his sound and his identity, while giving listeners something to dance to at the same time.
Look closely enough and you’ll see that Jamie Lidell is more than the perfect follow up to Compass. Both records are the most over the top maximalist work we’ve seen since early 2000s Basement Jaxx, but while Compass keeps its samples organic and maintains a pretty earthy tone throughout, Jamie Lidell dives full-bore into the noisy sounds of late 80s and early 90s R&B. But as always, limiting Lidell to his throwbacks and influences does him sincere injustice. Jim simmered with classic 70s soul, but tracks like “Figured Me Out” and “All I Wanna Do” proved that his personally unique sense of melodic experimentalism was all the time just below the surface. With Compass, and more than ever with Jamie Lidell, he is setting this side free to roam and embellish every note of his tunes with overwhelming amounts of surprise and swagger. Songs like “What A Shame” and “Why_Ya_Why” could work perfectly fine as Jim-era soul tracks, but the face-melting amount of noise and layering Lidell has dumped onto them makes them entirely unique and progressive in a way that no other artist could even attempt to replicate. At times, especially on “Why_Ya_Why”, the pure insanity might be a bit much for some listeners, but without a doubt, the best musical balance that Lidell strikes is found in the album’s closer, “In My Mind”. The track is Lidell’s take on early 90s R&B. Its sultry pop groove will pull nearly anyone in, but it will take you more than a couple listens to catch everything that’s going on there. Such is the beauty of Lidell’s music – it’s almost never found in simplicity.
Musically, Jamie Lidell might give you enough to sit on for a while. But believe it or not, the record may also be Lidell’s most personal yet. The album’s title choice was not one of laziness. Rather, Jamie Lidell is putting his best musical foot forward on this record, while still opening up to some pretty serious thoughts about himself. On “Blaming Something”, he opens up about not wanting play the victim anymore, and how it isn’t alright for him to blame wrongs done to him in the past for his current situation or his outlook on life. Think about the current state of the music industry (music piracy, Spotify, label monopolies, etc), and that’s a pretty hard thing to do! On, “I’m Selfish”, Lidell says in the chorus, “Used to be all about me, ’cause baby I’m selfish, but I fight it”. He talks about how life is a matter of controlling your wanton desires versus your human need to act in love and community – pretty deep stuff! Sure, there are plenty of Lidell’s quintessential tunes about love lost and the struggle to find real love amongst a landscape of miscommunication, but the mixture makes Jamie Lidell a real treat for those of us that want a better look inside his brain.
Lidell’s new record is not one to be missed! Jamie Lidell is out this Tuesday, February 19, through Warp Records on CD and double LP. Lidell is touring in support of the record and will be at Neumos on April 1. Grab your tickets here.