earthings! 2015: My ten favorites of the year

We’re closing up shop for another year, which means our obligatory look at the year that was – and, like in the past two years, it’s in the form of ten songs, arranged alphabetically by artist. And it’s been an interesting year, indeed. Pop music was, once again, no longer a guilty pleasure. The much-anticipated comeback of guitar music did not happen, but we had some genre-pushing, if not outright weird, alternative anyway. We’ve seen new acts make a legitimate splash, but it wasn’t for the sake of a new voice. We’ve seen old acts make triumphant returns, but nostalgia wasn’t the biggest thing. Things have not settled down to the way people want it to be (and that could mean anything depending on who you ask) but things have never looked this good in recent years either. It is weird. Interesting, but weird.

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Review: In Colour by Jamie xx

In Colour by Jamie xxYou wouldn’t know it, but Jamie xx’s the most influential member of the xx; apart from the band’s sound being unmistakably his, he also remixed the likes of Florence + the Machine and Gil Scott-Heron, and produced for Alicia Keys and Drake. Now he’s putting out his debut effort: In Colour is a trip through the dance floor, but without the in-your-face tendencies such albums usually have. It achieves its subtlety without replicating the quiet that the xx is known for. (While his bandmates, Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim, contribute vocals, they tone things down themselves. Yep, it is possible.) It’s breezy, it’s bouncy, and it’s compelling in its introverted nature. This is a nod to the rave styles of the past, but all through the lens of an outsider, someone who’s interpreting the styles by sitting down in his bedroom and just wondering how being in the real thing could’ve been, processing the murmurs he could get and ending up with a record that manages to be both reverential and unique. In Colour is a juxtaposition. It’s muted, but fun. It’s not in your face, but it’s still, well, colorful. It’s a mix that shouldn’t go as well as it does here – and he makes it just fine. [NB]4/5

The crash course: xx marks the spot

The xx

I’ve written a fair bit about the xx, and I’ve loved them since my New Yorker friend Jean convinced me to listen to their first record by sending me the MP3 code to her vinyl record, but no, I’m not watching them perform tonight at the NBC Tent. Tickets are expensive, and I can’t drag my girlfriend to the whole thing because, well, tickets are expensive. And nobody I know who’s interested seems to be watching either, because, well, tickets are expensive. I’d call this crash course a bit of a middle finger to the hipsters who made good music inaccessible – or, are they hipsters? Because a pop station who won’t touch the xx in theory is sponsoring this, bah – but no, I’d call this me being topical. If you’re watching tonight and you haven’t an idea who the xx are, well, you’re welcome. [NB]

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