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Jamie Lidell: Doubling Back To Soul

Way back in 2005, when Jamie Lidell released the excellent Multiply, the hook of the title track almost felt like a manifesto: "I'm so tired of beating myself, beating myself up / Gonna take a trip and multiply." From a stylistic standpoint, Multiply was Lidell's clear step away from the intense dance music of Muddlin Gear, as well as a move toward more commercially palatable neo-soul. Five years later, "Compass" also marks an aesthetic redirection for Lidell -- although this time it's in spite of the hook: "And now I know the only compass that I need is the one that leads back to you."

It seems almost absurd to list all the elements that Lidell manages to synthesize here: delicate, empyrean tones; an out-of-tune, Micachu-esque guitar; desperado horns; a drumline that sounds like it was recorded in a tunnel; and, of course, his own wistful set of pipes. Occasionally, "Compass" sounds like a track Thom Yorke might record, but the eclecticism feeds into a composition that Lidell can call his own.

It helps that the song's concept has legs: A protagonist has seemingly traveled to a frontier -- as per the aural suggestion of the West, or even space -- but yearns for the starting point of it all. "Only a heart knows where I've been," Lidell sings with chilling fervor, whether he's referring to his own heart or one to which he seeks to return. Like the most realistic of love songs, it's hard to say.

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Daniel Cook