A Heartfelt Attempt
Why soul singer Jamie Lidell is not the bigger sensation he ought to be is a mystery. He’s got the devilish good looks of contemporaries like Justin Timberlake, the suave-but-less-hip, vintage revival sound of Mayer Hawthorne, and perhaps one of the most heartfelt voices of late. Yet somehow he’s gone under the radar a bit more than he should. It’s a damn shame, too.
Compass, while mostly miss than hit, is an odd mix of retro-soul and sexy R&B for the majority of the album with a confused attempt at rock that simply doesn’t work. It’s no hidden sentiment that Compass feels like mostly filler music. A chunk of Compass is just plain unlistenable (the eerie “Coma Chameleon,” the empty “Big Drift”), but, nevertheless, remains an honest attempt on Lidell’s behalf.
It’s not a complete loss, however. Opener “Completely Exposed” introduces the Compass that should have been, but never delivered, sadly. An instant hook, “Completely Exposed” lures listeners with Lidell’s vulnerable croons and unexpectedly swoons with his pained, unanswered pleas that Robin Thicke would salivate over. What’s worse is that this is where Lidell shines best, and this sexification is quickly lost almost for good, except for an arousing “She Needs Me,” where it’s just Lidell and listener lost in the world.
Even with production from Beck and Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, Compass disappoints in follow-through. “Completely Exposed” and “She Needs Me” set the tone for what seems like a completely separate album, and perhaps Lidell should have saved those gems for a more complete offering.