Jamie Lidell ‘Jamie Lidell' (Warp)
Jamie Lidell is an accidental soul man, an English electronic dance music artist (with Super Collider) who unexpectedly emerged on 2005's “Multiply” as a credible R&B singer. The title song to that first proper solo album sounded like a lost classic from the Stax/Volt vaults, and after making a full move to organic soul with 2008's “Jim,” it looked as though Lidell was aiming for a growing audience of discriminating adult-alternative listeners. But Lidell threw his new fans a curve with his Beck-produced 2010 album “Compass,” a sonically challenging left turn, and on his self-titled new album he takes one of the many directions he explored on “Compass” — 1980s funk — and goes fully freak-a-zoid with it.
“Jamie Lidell” uses the Minneapolis funk of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and the “freestyle” and “new jack swing” subsets of 1980s R&B as its starting point, then embellishes beyond the big beats and syncopated keyboards. The opening “I'm Selfish” and “Big Love” sound like throwbacks at first, but Lidell executes the grooves with an ear toward modern hits — it's the kind of confidence that comes from using pop music's history to predict its future. Lidell can veer toward dissonance and atonality — especially on third track “What a Shame” and the Tom Wait-by-way-of Parliament groaner “why_ya_why” — but he gets his groove back quickly, singing like a man possessed on the vocoder-fueled “Do Yourself a Faver” and “You Naked.”
There does not seem to be the kind of machinery in place that would make Lidell a star, but “Jamie Lidell” is packed with ear candy, especially the can't-lose stretch of five songs that begins with “Blaming Something” and ends with the album's finale, the smashingly funky “In Your Mind.” Lidell probably changes gears too much for mainstream taste, but that's what makes “Jamie Lidell” such a killer exploration of dance-floor possibilities: you never know his next step.
— George Lang