We’re going to do two reviews a week here – one of a new album (less than a year old) and one of an older album. We also thought it’d be cool if our reviews took the form of a discussion, with humor and personality, rather than a dry essay. Our new album review this week is of Jamie Lidell’s album Jamie Lidell. Click “continue reading” to check it out.
Jamie Lidell is an English singer-songwriter. He built his career singing retro-sounding soul music, and then made some sizable waves with his third album, Compass, a dark, raw soul-folk record which made heavy use of looping, and featured contributions from Beck, Feist, and Nikka Costa, among others. Jamie Lidell is his fourth album, released in February.
Oscar: OK, so, why did you pick the album?
Zen: Because a friend of mine gave me a looper and I wanted to see some motherfuckers make some motherfucking awesome music with loopers. I thought of Jamie Lidell. After seeing his really cool use of it live, I became interested in listening to more of his recorded work.
Oscar: Good reason.
Zen: Thank you.
Oscar: Although this has less looping than Compass, definitely.
Zen: Definitely. It’s a much more straight forward record.
Oscar: Yah. Yeah. I’m so sorry. “Yah” should never come from my mouth.
Zen: …Or from anyone’s mouth. I was about to call your ass out on that shit.
Oscar: So, overall thoughts on the album?
Zen: Pretty underwhelmed. At best it made me want to go listen to the people who clearly inspire him (Prince, Parliament, etc.) and at worst it made me skip the song. Which made me have to go back and listen to the song in full, because what kind of music critic would I be if I skipped through songs?
Oscar: A shitty one.
Zen: Thanks for clarifying. It was a vicious cycle. What were your thoughts?
Oscar: I agree with that analysis for the most part, but I don’t think it should be totally written off as an album. It’s not a pinnacle of artistry, but there are definitely some solid ‘80s-style dance tunes.
Zen: That’s fair. So with that said, what were the songs that made the album worthwhile for you?
Oscar: My top 3 were, “You Naked” – easily the best song on the album in my opinion. Right amount of funkiness, danceability, clear influences, and fusion of ‘80s sounds and dubsteppy modern elements. Also it’s the catchiest song on the album, I think.
Oscar: Number 2 would be “Big Love” I think. It’s a lot of fun, you can tell he’s enjoying himself. And similarly to “You Naked,” the influences are present and the sound is cohesive without getting dull. Third I think would be “Don’t You Love Me.” It’s just a very welcome change of pace and style in the album. Maybe style isn’t the right word, but it’s a different type of song from the others, kind of.
Zen: Those are interesting choices. Your first two choices are actually two of my least favorite cuts on the album. I’ve never felt Jamie has an amazing voice, and on this album when he chose to play it so safe and “poppy” his weakness lyrically and vocally really showed for me. He reminded me of a less talented Adam Levine. While I thought “You Naked” got super funky, and I thoroughly enjoyed its funk because I love all thangs funky, his lyrics dug into the age-old bag of clichés that should be left closed. When he began to sing, “You’re making me craaaazy,” I literally said, “You’re fucking kidding me” at my iPod.
Oscar: I get your point but I think you have to look at the album as not pushing any envelopes, and more of a tribute to his influences, which is why I find lyrics like that more excusable. If I’m being charitable and thinking he’s writing in the vein of old pop/soul/r&b stuff. Purposefully I mean.
Zen: I agree with that and those are the reasons I normally I wouldn’t gripe about his lyrics. Plus he’s never claimed to be a poet. And the lyrics on Compass (my favorite Jamie album) definitely weren’t amazing, but I didn’t mind because I found his production and musical choices so interesting.
Zen: And as I said earlier, while the man certainly got down with his bad self, the only thing the album really made me want to do was go listen to some Prince.
Oscar: Fair. So what were your top 3?
Zen: “why_ya_why.” I dug the production choices and it reminded me of Compass‘s originality and playfulness.
Oscar: I agree with that. It reminded me of Tom Waits a lot. Or like, if Tom Waits had written it and given it to some completely different person to produce.
Zen: Really good comparison. Although Tom Waits would never, ever be that happy.
Oscar: Yeah I guess, it’d all be about alcoholism and homelessness if it was a Tom Waits song.
Zen: It bears noting that Tom Waits is probably the only person who can sing about those subjects and make me enjoy myself. Anyway, my 2nd choice would probably be “Do Yourself A Favor.” For all the reasons you enjoyed the album. I couldn’t resist that vocoder.
Oscar: I can get down with that. That would have been number 4 for me, I think.
Zen: My 3rd is “What A Shame.” It completely surprised me, and that beat is banging. Although after the hook came around for the fourth time I became bored. But until then I was bumping hard.
Oscar: That choice I disagree with. I think that track was the one that exhibited his vocal weakness the most. His voice sounded especially harsh on the hook. Although I did like the beat.
Zen: I agree, and that’s why I became bored. Really the production, like most Jamie things I enjoy, was what interested me.
Oscar: In general on the album, the production carried it.
Zen: What were your 3 bottom picks?
Oscar: My bottom 3 were: “Blaming Something.” It bored me. Lyrically nothing worth noting, production wasn’t as adventurous as other tracks.
Zen: I agree. I had to try and remember what track you were talking about.
Oscar: I think “What A Shame” is my second bottom, for reasons I already said. And 3rd bottom was “You Know My Name.”
Zen: Why that one?
Oscar: It had little P-Funk flourishes that I liked, but overall that was the only thing I could find on the track that I enjoyed.
Zen: I wouldn’t argue with that.
Oscar: So, bottom 3 for you?
Zen: “You Know My Name” for me as well. I wanted to write Prince a letter asking if he knew Jamie had stolen his keyboard. Second would be “So Cold.”
Oscar: Good pick.
Zen: Third, “You Naked.” Lyrically it physically hurt me. After all that bashing, what were your favorite musical and lyrical moments?
Oscar: Musical was I think whenever the vocorder popped up. Especially in “In Your Mind.”
Zen: Totally down with that.
Oscar: Lyrically I honestly can’t think of one.
Zen: Neither can I. If Jamie ever reads this, there go the chances of us doing a collaboration.
Oscar: But the focus of the album is definitely on the music, so I don’t feel too bad about that.
Oscar: Your favorite moments?
Zen: My favorite moment was when the stuttering vocals came in on “Don’t You Love Me.” I thought it was just a really great and cool choice to accent the slow jamming.
Oscar: Word. So do you find an overarching concept behind the album?
Zen: ‘80s. ‘80s. ‘80s. ‘80s. ‘80s. EIGHTIES. Do I get my gold star now for getting the answer?
Oscar: I’d agree with that, but with a minor tweak – I think definitely the tribute to the ‘80s and Prince and P-Funk, but also adding modern electronic elements into that.
Zen: Damn. I’ll have to make myself a gold star.
Oscar: I’ll give you a silver star. But that was actually one of the things I liked most about the album – usually when people talk about combining “X” genre with electronic music, it’s like using a house or dubstep beat with a melody in the other style, but I thought this album did a good job of using electronic elements as if they were instruments in an ‘80s band. The perfect example to me is the dubsteppy bass in “You Naked.”
Zen: All good thoughts, and I agree – people need to broaden their thoughts with what electronics can do in music.
Oscar: Definitely. So, final score out of 10?
Zen: Jamie, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry… 4.
Oscar: Wow. Harsh. Why?
Zen: Because I know for a fact that after this week of spending time with the album, I won’t be returning to it for listens. Instead I’ll be bumpin’ Daft Punk’s new album for that sexy vocoder.
Zen: Your score?
Oscar: Because while it has moments I enjoyed a good deal, as a whole it didn’t work for me as well as it should have. On the other hand I just really like the ‘80s so I’m down with ‘80s-style dance tunes.
Zen: Also fair.
Oscar: I’ll probably put a few songs on my party playlist and I may or may not skip them when they come up on shuffle.
Zen: I’ll be polite and dance along no matter what.
Oscar: Thank you.
Zen: We done here?
Oscar: I think so.
Come back next week for our reviews of David Bowie’s The Next Day and Portishead’s Third.