Jamie Lidell – Compass Album Review

On a recent hour-long drive, I burned a CD of mp3s, and all that would fit on the disc was CocoRosie’s entire Grey Oceans album and nine tracks from Jamie Lidell’s latest effort, Compass. Five tracks from Compass were missing from the burn, starting with its title track. Usually, this would be an annoyance, but in this case, I was actually a little bit relieved. For despite moments of intense build-up and an eventual burst into fun, dissonant Micachu And The Shapes-esque instrumentation, “Compass” really takes too long to reach fruition. It would be better suited as a closing track, but actually becomes a lull in the album which makes the remaining four tracks feel extraneous, even despite the fact that “Coma Chameleon” is fantastic with its mystical blaring horns and spaciness.

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.


Written by
Vee Hua 華婷婷

Vee Hua 華婷婷 (they/them) is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer with semi-nomadic tendencies. Much of their work unifies their metaphysical interests with their belief that art can positively transform the self and society. They are the Editor-in-Chief of REDEFINE, Interim Managing Editor of South Seattle Emerald, and Co-Chair of the Seattle Arts Commission. They also previously served as the Executive Director of the interdisciplinary community hub, Northwest Film Forum, where they played a key role in making the space more welcoming and accessible for diverse audiences.

Vee has two narrative short films. Searching Skies (2017) touches on Syrian refugee resettlement in the United States; with it, they helped co-organize The Seventh Art Stand, a national film and civil rights discussion series against Islamophobia. Reckless Spirits (2022) is a metaphysical, multi-lingual POC buddy comedy for a bleak new era, in anticipation of a feature-length project.

Vee is passionate about cultural space, the environment, and finding ways to covertly and overtly disrupt oppressive structures. They also regularly share observational human stories through their storytelling newsletter, RAMBLIN’ WITH VEE!, and are pursuing a Master’s in Tribal Resource and Environmental Stewardship under the Native American Studies Department at the University of Minnesota.

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Written by Vee Hua 華婷婷
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