Artist: Jamie Lidell
Record Label: Warp
Release Date: 5/18/2010
From his beginnings as an experimental electronic musician to his more recent endeavors as a throwback soul-stirrer, Jamie Lidell has paved out a musical career marked by constant change and evolution. His last album Jim pulled him away from his electronic roots and more towards his neo-soul aspirations. On his fourth album Compass, however, we see both sides of his career merging closer than at any point thus far. Rather than continuing to partake in an exercise of revivalism, Compass endures as an exploratory effort combining Lidell’s wide range of talents into an intriguing work.
Much this album’s allure comes from its collaborative nature, featuring the likes of Beck, Feist, Grizzly Bear members Chris Taylor and Daniel Rossen, Wilco’s Pat Sansone and Nikki Costa, among many others. Between Lidell’s ensemble of guests and his penchant for experimental production, Compass emerges as a freewheeling and expansive display of creativity. Between the layered liveliness of “Your Sweet Boom,” the gushing Prince-heavy “I Wanna Be Your Telephone” and the dirty blues stroll “The Ring,” Lidell’s songwriting and production are as dexterous as the musical styles are diverse.
As usual, Lidell’s voice continues to act as his best friend, enabling his songs to be augmented by the strength of his voice, as in the pensive opener “Completely Exposed” and the short vintage calling “I Can Love Again.” This time around, his friends have provided timely additions complimenting his standout voice, including Beck’s dark and morphing production on “Coma Chameleon” and Feist’s harmonic contributions on the heavy and crawling “Big Drift.”
The only downside to Compass stands in its relative lack of cohesiveness. Whereas Jim was a tight set of neo-soul numbers and Multiply predominantly featured his trademark looping, Compass contains a little bit of everything, spanning across a wide range of musical territory. While Lidell may overreach at times, it’s a relatively small complaint for an otherwise compelling album full of introspection and artistic development.