Jamie xx recently said this album "definitely informed the next xx album." Even the name marks a new chapter for the xx, a band whose entire aesthetic was built around monochrome gloom. Not that there wasn't a subtle beauty to the restrained, gothic minimalism, but a name like In Colour has rebirth written all over it, most notably with the bold burst of color that has replaced the usual "x" motif.
Make no mistake: This is very obviously a Jamie xx album. It's full of rich sonic textures, big sounds, and room-filling low-end, but take a look at the list of guest spots and you get yet another hint at the technicolor future of Jamie and the band. Yes, Romy and Oliver feature on a track or two, but Young Thug and Popcaan? No one would have put either with Jamie xx, and yet the subtle melodies of each vocalist's flow fits perfectly with the producer's restrained but powerful melodies. These new swathes of color manifest themselves in a few different ways: There's the euphoric gospel of "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)," the breaks-led energy of "Gosh," the old school hip-hop of "SeeSaw," and several moments that could have fit just as well on a Caribou or Four Tet album.
Lyrically, the subject matter falls into two camps: the muted introspection of classic xx, which can be heard in "SeeSaw" and "Stranger in a Room" (which coincidentally features both of Jamie's bandmates), and then there's the unbridled optimism of "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)" and the euphoric burst of color that is "Loud Places." The latter acts as a microcosm for the album as Romy asks, "Didn't I take you to higher places you can't reach without me?" putting an end to the previous chapter in xx's history.
"Gosh" is the first track we hear, and it's a very Jamie xx take on jungle and breaks with a hint of Jersey Club. Then, on "Obvs," we're treated to more color, this time by way of steel drums. He does, however, keep a foot in the past with tracks like "Just Saying," "Hold Tight," and "Stranger in a Room"—the latter of which could quite easily have been a cut from either xx album. That may sound like Jamie xx is retreading old ground, but if we reconsider what he said about the album, that it informs the next xx album, then it makes a lot of sense tethering himself to those old sounds. Thus, we have an LP that eases the listener into the transition, keeping the switch in tone from feeling too drastic or jarring.
It may seem dismissive to write the album off as a stepping stone, but when you consider the stark contrast between tracks like the gospel leanings of "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)" and, say, "Basic Space," In Colour isn't only a necessary listen, but an important one too. It's also worth remembering that none of these tracks are purely functional; "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)," in particular, will undoubtedly be one of the songs 2015 is remembered for. That said, the set bridges the rather large aesthetic gulf between past xx material and the new direction the album hints at. Behind us lies the minimalist introspection of the xx, and ahead of us, on the horizon, lies a new era of the band and its members, one in which leftfield collaborations are the norm and uplifting major chords are welcomed in to the fold.