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Jamie Lidell – Compass

on May 26, 2010, 8:00am
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Jamie Lidell is a complete musical anomaly to me. Starting out in the underground techno group Super Collider, he seemed like just another fairly talented DJ and beat maker. Then he went solo and released the mindscrew Muddlin Gear. Then the renaissance happened. Lidell decided he had a little soul and funk in his thin, white, British frame, and that’s when Multiply came along. The 2005 album blew up everywhere; people once again believed in soul and funk, and Lidell’s voice emerged. And hot damn, what a voice it was. He followed it up with 2008’s Jim, which further pushed his sexy brand of glitchy British soul/funk into the mainstream. Along with his unorthodox and insane live performances, Lidell took over music blogs/websites/players and became the hottest act around.

When I first heard Jim I was completely blown away by the music, and once I saw a picture and an interview of who it was making this music, I refused to believe it. He is a thin, scruffy looking British man with thick black frame glasses. In interviews, he was all over the place and somewhat twitchy. How could this man be making this soulful and 100% danceable funk music? Doesn’t matter. He makes it, and God bless it, I am thankful.

Now Lidell is back with his newest venture, Compass, and this time he brought along some very talented friends. You may know them, actually. There’s Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear, Pat Sansone from Wilco, Gonzales, Nikka Costa– oh, and there is this guy named Beck Hansen. He had a hit back in the 90s with an album called Odelay? Remember? Also, there is this lovely vocalist named Leslie Feist. She had that infectious hit “1234” and did some minor work with that Canadian group Broken Social Scene. Lidell uses them all to their full talent. Compass is one of the few albums that I’ve listened to and thought, “Hot damn this is good…and so damn sexy” during just the first listen.

Lidell mixed the entire album himself with help from Taylor, and the production value on the album is incredible. Lidell made all the drumbeats and sonic environments himself, and he manages to add just the right amount of fuzz to not only the beats and synths, but also the vocals and instruments. Everything sounds exactly as it should, and Lidell doesn’t go overboard with effects. He has a deft touch when it comes to mixing and producing, and you can hear his influence in the bass and synth sound on the album.

Album opener “Completely Exposed” is both a highlight of Lidell’s musical talent and also a preview of the album’s more personal lyrics. “I don’t wanna be closed, but opening up has left me completely exposed.” The promotional material says that Lidell went through quite the roller coaster in the years between Jim and the recording of Compass, and it only took him a month to write all the songs for this album. He took everything from the previous years and put it all into his music, and it shows. The songs are emotional and tight, and there is more of a feeling of heartache than on previous efforts.

Tapping Feist and Nikka Costa was one of the better things Lidell could’ve done on this album. Both singers, especially Costa, have an inherent deep soul tinge to their voices, and they match extremely well with Lidell. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough duets on the album to show off the match, but it comes close on “Your Sweet Boom” with Costa’s vocal improvs, and on the extra-funky, very Beck-esque tunes “I Wanna Be Your Telephone” and “Enough’s Enough.”

“She Needs Me” and “It’s a Kiss” are two of the best songs on the album, and the two that must be played in any dark candlelit room when you’re with your closest naked friend. They are funky, and give Prince a good run for his money. “She Needs Me” has everything from a slow jam drum beat to orgasmic wails from Lidell along with some damn fine 70s synth and bass. Makes me sweat just hearing it, and you can so easily picture it over a sexy montage in front of a fireplace. “It’s a Kiss” is a little more intense of a sex scene. It’s more likely to be over the top of a quick clip montage rather than one with slow dissolves. Both damn sexy.

Overall, the album’s tunes are extremely well crafted, though at times a bit agitated. Lidell’s scattered personality shows in this album, and it causes the album to be a bit scattered itself. However, I feel it isn’t enough to be distracting at all. It would be incredibly nit-picky to mark against this album because of that, since it is such a minor thing. The album does tend to be a bit front heavy with the toe-tapping jams, but the latter half is smooth as smooth can be. Beck’s hand can be seen firmly planted on a few songs, so if you aren’t a modern day Beck fan, it might be a problem for you, though I don’t see why.

Lidell continues to amaze me with his talent in both production and in his voice. I have a feeling this album will be on repeat for me for the next month or so, just as Jim was for me a few summers ago. I highly suggest you do the same with it.

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