Best Album of 2015 To: Put On When You’re Ready To Escape The World You Know/Join The New World You’ve Been Resisting
First Bite: “Loud Places”
Shaman: a priest or priestess, who uses magic for the purpose of curing the sick, divining the hidden, and controlling events. A case could be made that every artist on this list is a shaman, their magic: the music. This year one artist’s magic enchanted me more than any other: Jamie xx.
If you wagered me in January that an IDM (“Intelligent Dance Music,” read: less structured) would be my favorite of the year come December, I’d have given you great odds. I have been complicit to some degree in the prejudice against the electronic. I felt myself nodding and laughing with Ryan Adams when, in reference to Tiesto’s thumping bass one stage over, he exclaimed at Coachella: “This is what music is these days.” Later that same weekend, I heard myself cheering loudly when Win Butler of Arcade Fire extolled the merits of those who “play instruments.” Perhaps caught up in the the mob mentality, I defied my love of those who embrace both instrumentation and digital sound creation like Jack Garratt, Kiev, alt-J and many more.
Enter Jamie xx with In Colour. Wonderful listening while working, while writing, and while driving. There is a harmony among the repetition and variation on display in the palate of soothing sounds, soft swells, samples and tractor beam bass riffs that entrance the senses. In Colour left me feeling refreshed and enlightened with each successive listen. The mysteries of his music quieting my logical mind to make room for the irrational: with or without vocals, with or with out instruments.
Then I listened to the album while standing up: cooking, showering, cleaning. Yes, I rocked and swayed and nodded my head at my desk and in the car, but while standing… The music compels movement. A friend of mine surprised me with tickets to his live show, where Jamie assumed control of my limbs for the evening. I’d never met Molly before that night, and –oh boy, is she a doozy when you’ve got a world class shaman divining the hidden for two seamless hours. Jamie remixed a few of his tracks and crafted interesting, not always dance-y transitions between songs where he played samples and interlude snippets. Matched by a beautifully choreographed light show, not an EDM all-out laser assault, but a vibrant and entrancing display of color. Inside his color cloud, nothing else existed; we were nowhere but here. What more can you ask for from a live show but full immersion?
During his live set, with great satisfaction, Jamie remedied the only flaw of In Colour: the gibberish verses of Good Times, by opting for a remix that left the forgettable blabbings by the wayside. Despite their (the contributors who must not be named) folly, the beat is too enrapturing to skip and the hook of the chorus too fun to go unheard. The shaman endures, following Good Times on the album with the his most compelling composition to date. True to it’s name, when the penultimate track comes on (live and on the album), The Rest is Noise.