Yet, asides from this minor misstep, Lidell’s latest album is a rousing success. So let’s leave the bad behind and move onto the good news, shall we? Because there’s a lot more of that.
Lidell is a soul pop wiz. Compass is his third full-length release, and the tracks on it are wildly diverse, ranging from the Jackson 5-esque “Enough’s Enough” to the ’90s R&B “She Needs Me” and the funky “It’s A Kiss.” The production is praise-worthy; Compass is overflowing with layers of vocal tracks and out-of-control sounds, yet everything feels perfectly balanced. So much so, in fact, that Lidell and company can use canned keyboard sounds and “dated” beats and snares without sounding at all dated. The fourteen-track album easily has more than a handful of potential pop singles and puts an updated spin on Lidell’s style. Melodies are experimentally chopped together with raucous noises, giving Lidell a fierce presence to bring into the next chapter of his joyous career. The growth couldn’t be more obvious, and if Lidell is ever to make it into true pop stardom, this record will mark the beginning of it.
Like most passionate soul artists, Lidell frequently gets lost in the moment, meandering in the best of ways and sometimes embracing twitchy, abrupt vocal adlibbing. He is the kind of vocalist who can use vocal manipulations that kidnappers might use on a ransom tape (“Your Sweet Boom”), can mimick the sounds of dialing a telephone (“I Wanna Be Your Telephone”), or use words like “fool” and “hater” (“Enough’s Enough” / “Your Sweet Boom”), and still be taken completely seriously. The video for the album single, “The Ring,” about sums up Lidell’s style: goofy, dynamic, and able to hold a frame (or recording) on sheer personality alone.
As Lidell is such an aurally-present soul, it’s no wonder that Compass began its creation at Beck’s Hudson Studios, features collaborative efforts from Pat Sansone of Wilco and Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear, and was completed at Feist’s ranch. Name-dropping doesn’t always deliver excellent products, but in this case, it does.