Audio Mixers: Tom Elmhirst; Jamie Smith.
Recording information: Fortress studios, London (03/2014); Marfa Recording Co., Marfa, TX (03/2014); Fortress studios, London (2012-2014); Marfa Recording Co., Marfa, TX (2012-2014).
Compared to Jamie xx's impact on music, it's easy to forget that he hasn't released much on his own. The distinctive yet surprisingly versatile blend of indie, R&B, and dance in his work with the xx, Gil Scott-Heron, and his remixes helped shape the sound of the late 2000s and 2010s, but his solo discography was limited to a handful of singles, many of which appear on his first full-length, In Colour. While one of his best singles, "All Under One Roof Raving," doesn't appear on the album, its balance of the kinetic and the atmospheric -- as well as its reverence for classic U.K. dance music -- is reflected on some of In Colour's brightest highlights. "Gosh" is hard-edged yet radiant, its juddering drum'n'bass rhythms and shouted samples adding heft and movement before swelling synths overtake the track like a sunrise after a long night out. Indeed, for most of the album, Jamie xx uses his considerable gifts for atmosphere to make listeners remember the euphoria of dance music rather than immerse them in it. Despite its brassy flourishes, "Girl"'s filtered house is haunting and aloof instead of driving, while its former B-side "Sleep Sound" fades in and out like a dream. Given his skills as a collaborator, it's not surprising that some of In Colour's best moments occur when he shares the spotlight. While his reunion with xx bandmate Oliver Sim on the implosive "Stranger in a Room" is almost too reminiscent of their previous work, Romy Madley Croft remains one of his most inspiring muses. She gives In Colour's nostalgia more humanity on the beautifully blurred "Seesaw" and "Loud Places," where a sample of Idris Muhammad's joyous "Could Heaven Ever Be Like This" makes the contrast between then and now, and alone and together, all the more poignant. However, the album's most immediate moment belongs to Young Thug and Popcaan. Inspired by a drive from Manhattan to Brooklyn while listening to Hot 97, the summery "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)" embraces pop, hip-hop, and dancehall in a way that feels evocative and forward-looking. As it moves from reflective to engaging and back again, In Colour covers the entire spectrum of Jamie xx's music, delivering flashes of brilliance along the way. ~ Heather Phares