Jamie Lidell drops the funk on fifth LP

Jordan Beck

It might be hard to believe with the weather the Upper Peninsula has been experiencing lately, but spring is right around the corner.

Whether you’re planning to head somewhere warm in a few weeks or waiting for the good weather to come to you, you’re going to need a few new albums for your spring soundtrack.

Jamie Lidell’s self-titled fifth LP might not seem like an obvious choice, given its late-February release date, but make no mistake: if you want a musical accompaniment to the high temperatures and wild nights of spring break, this is 2013’s current front-runner.

Best described as a combination of funk and synthpop, “Jamie Lidell” sounds both deeply indebted to the past and like nothing else out there right now.

Generally speaking, the album has a bit of an ’80s vibe, thanks to its old-school melodies, reverb-heavy drums and multi-tracked vocal harmonies.

But Lidell’s roots as a musician aren’t just in funk — he’s also well-known for producing experimental electronic music. Both sides of Lidell’s history are present and accounted for on this album, giving it an incredibly fresh sound.

As you may have guessed, “Jamie Lidell” is at its best when it’s combining the past and the future, and nowhere is that sense of syncretism more crucial than on lead single “What A Shame.” On the surface, it’s among the most modern-sounding songs on the album, full of juddering synths and modulated vocals.

What really gives the track its heart and soul is Lidell’s raw, classically-funky singing, which provides the perfect contrast to the track’s sleek production. If you enjoyed Bobby Womack’s recent cameo on Gorillaz’ single “Stylo,” you owe it to yourself to check this song out.

“why_ya_why” is another example of just how well “Jamie Lidell” mixes the synthetic and the organic. Things start off simply enough, with Lidell offering his best Oogie Boogie impression over a sparse piano line and a few vocal samples in the background.

But, about thirty seconds in, the track explodes, adding both digital rhythms and New Orleans-style brass.

Things get even stranger as the song goes on, too. The ending of “why_ya_why” features both a muted-trumpet solo that could have been recorded decades ago and a spacey drum breakdown imported directly from modern dance music, a combination that works far better than it has any right to.

This is all interesting stuff, but perhaps the greatest trick “Jamie Lidell” pulls is that the weighty ideas put into it don’t make the result any less effective on a purely instinctive level. Instead, this disc functions equally well as a study in musical time-travel and a collection of breezy, funk-influenced pop songs.

It just depends on how closely you want to look into things. And if you don’t want to look into things all that closely when you’re catching a few rays on some far-off beach…well, who could blame you?