words by Vicki Winter

It’s not often you come across an album deserving of 5 Stag Stars, perhaps one or two if it’s a good year, and at the risk of giving it away too early I think In Colour by Jamie XX may be my pick for 2015… The debut album by Jamie Smith (aka Jamie XX) which was released June 1st via Young Turks, illustrates a history of the UK club scene with a meticulous balance of highs, lows, love, and loneliness felt by clubbers. Smith has perfected the sound throughout to fit into that utopias ‘classic’ category, meaning you could listen to it at any time from any time period.

Growing up in the UK and having received his first turntables when he was 10 years old from his Uncle, Jamie Smith started his musical career from a young age. Fast forward a few years and Smith is now one third of award winning indie rock trio The XX, and Jamie XX is in fact his side project that still holds firm roots with the group. Firstly in the name Jamie XX (self-explanatory); then with the artwork where Smith deliberately uses the corner of The XX’s signature X in all his designs; and also by collaborating with both bandmates Romy Madley Crof and Oliver Sim on a few of the album’s tracks. Aside from this, as The XX Crof, Sim, and Smith dress entirely in black, and the rainbow concept of In Colour is a play on the idea that they are often stereotyped as being moody or depressed, when in fact they are actually quite happy, and colourful people. They just like to wear black.

While touring with The XX, Smith was a little bit homesick, and missing London. So he started sampling things that reminded him of home. Such as the start of ‘Girl’ “You’re the most beautiful girl Hackney, y’know?” is from Channel 4’s inner-city drama Top Boy. The ‘Gosh’ sample is from a Radio 1 pilot for a pirate-radio show that never went anywhere. The chatter scattered throughout the album is recording of UK clubs such as Fabric, or the recently closed Plastic People. It is these small details that allow the album to flow seamlessly, where no song is complete without the one before or after.

‘I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)’, a personal favourite, also uses samples, but these are from a record Smith found in Detroit by The Persuasions, called ‘Street Corner Symphony’. The record is a cappella with barber-shop style backing and soul vocals song over top. Smith asked Young Thug and Popcaan to do a version individually, but he thought they went so well together that he merged the two. He had also asked some other artists to do vocals, so there may end up being alternative versions perhaps? Smith’s signature steel drums can also be heard on this track and entwined in the record, though more prominently in ‘Obvs’. He actually owns his own child sized steel drums which he uses, and has explained his affinity with it’s caribbean sound as “You can make it sound quite melancholy… but at the same time, it reminds me of paradise.”

Each song finds a way of entrancing you, such as the floating co-production by Four Tet on ‘Seesaw’, or the familiar XX style abandonment of ‘Stranger in a Room’ (featuring Oliver Sim), or the heart breaking euphoria in ‘Loud Places’ (featuring Romy Madley Croft), or the glimmering piano melody which dances through your imagination in ‘The Rest Is Noise’. Smith captures the narrative of a night out in the UK dancing with such vibrant yet nostalgic sounds. This record has been on repeat since the first listen…

Rating: ★★★★★

For a limited time, a deluxe version of the album, cut on coloured vinyl and featuring two exclusive instrumental tracks, will be made available from the Jamie XX website, or you can purchase In Colour from iTunes now.