Most newcomers to Jamie Lidell are immediately struck by his voice. “Soulful” almost feels too easy an adjective to use to describe it, and comparisons to Sam Cooke and Otis Redding are both moot and belaboring the obvious at this point in Lidell’s career — after all, his sophomore album, 2005’s Multiply, earned him all that critical praise, slots on both Grey’s Anatomy and a Target commercial, and a multitude of devotees.
What really stuck out about his voice wasn’t just how authentically “soulful” it was, but that it suggested an honesty and openness that belied his years (he was thirty-two when he released Multiply). His vocals seemed to come from a pure place where nothing felt, at the very least, forced, or, at the very worst, like cheap mimicry. Needless to say, Multiply’s ten unforgettable tracks and ace production, alongside Lidell’s voice, made me an instant fan, and left me eagerly anticipating a follow-up.
Jim proves a strong successor to Multiply. These ten tracks marry the same well-nuanced blend of Berry Gordy’s Motown flavor with electronic punctuations (production skills Lidell surely honed with past electronic outfit Super Collider), all sizzling underneath Lidell’s down-to-the-bone songwriting and vocal delivery. Opening with the back-in-the-day throwback trifecta of “Another Day,” “Wait for Me,” and “Out of my System,” Jim’s minimal modern flourishes, driving choruses, and rollicking piano cement the fact that Lidell is the real deal.
“All I Wanna Do” and “Little Bit of Feel Good” are straight-up groove anthems seemingly from generations past. It is only upon closer inspection that Lidell and co-producer Mocky’s modernized production begins to reveal itself like a carefully woven fabric, and it’s those light touches that lend themselves to Jim’s dimension and depth.
The raw spitfire sizzle of “Figured Me Out” and “Hurricane” hark back to past Lidell staples like the bustling “When I Come Back Around” and the grittily hysteric “The City.” On “Figured Me Out,” we find Lidell channeling Stevie Wonder with his layered vocals and “Superstitious” reminiscent synths. But it is the Parliament-inspired hillbilly funk of “Hurricane” that really blisters away at an astonishing pace. Featuring a crunching call-and-response bass line, “Hurricane” not only makes for a hell of a good time, but, much like the album Jim, also makes for one of Lidell’s tightest and most enjoyable to date.