Jamie Lidell has made a career for himself by singing whatever the hell kind of music he wants to, from his electronic days with Super_Collider to the various shades of funk, disco, and soul he’s explored on his solo releases. Now, with Compass, his fourth full-length, Lidell takes things a step further, moving more into indie rock territory. The blue-eyed soul hasn’t gone away, don’t worry: it’s featured heavily in slow jams “It’s A Kiss” and “She Needs Me,” and is never far anywhere else, even in the heavier, more guitar-and-heavy-bass oriented songs, like “Gypsy Blood,” “You Are Waking” and the excellent “Your Sweet Boom.” The latter is one of the best things he’s ever written, most indicative of what Lidell can do and what he is. It’s a smart, unique, catchy song that never succumbs to corniness, with parts that intersect cleanly yet complexly, and incorporates all the styles he loves without letting one dominate. A success, to say the least.
Lidell didn’t work alone on Compass, however; instead, he chose guests who, like him, inhabit the same genre-bending realm, and because of this help him shape the album quite expertly. Chief among these is Beck, who produced much of the album, and co-wrote two tracks, “Coma Chameleon” and “Big Drift,” the latter of which features a St.-Vincent-esque vocal interlude from Feist and has Lidell singing as if he was Chris Cornell – albeit a much cooler, more mesmerizing and impressive Chris Cornell. Lidell has worked with both Beck and Feist before, and it makes sense, just as having Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor produce the other songs makes sense. Taylor’s work is most overtly heard on the title track, a lovely five-and-a-half-minute piece that, just when you think you have it figured out, grows in such a deep, yet subtle, way that it’s impossible to listen to it without feeling like you’ve learned something, like you’ve been somewhere.
Lidell’s covered a lot of ground in his decade-long career, but it’s never felt like he’s trying too hard or grasping at straws in order to make something fit. In all his experimentation, he’s never sounded like anything other than himself. Which means that although Compass is certainly different from his other albums, it’s also just as certainly distinctly Jamie Lidell, and just the latest step in an ever-growingly impressive career.