Six albums into his career, it’s no secret that Jamie Lidell likes to jump between different genres with every album. His previous album, a self-titled affair released in 2013, explored experimental, upbeat electropop in a way that he’d never captured before, creating something that succeeded at its attempts to mimic Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation yet retained his own personality at the same time. With that out of the way, Lidell’s decided to use Building a Beginning, his latest album, as a chance to move towards a more natural, soulful sound.
As such, Building a Beginning is largely mid-tempo. It stays in a mid-tempo R&B zone for most of its early segment, swapping to a more upbeat vibe for Julian as he sings about his recently born son, but keeping it slow otherwise. Elsewhere, he explores gospel music in the grand arrangement and chorus of vocals backing him up on Motionless, funk music finds its place on Nothing’s Gonna Change, and he even plays with reggae chords on How Did I Live Before Your Love. It’s a largely coherent package, with some songs—namely the likes of Building a Beginning and Julian—occasionally dragging too much, but otherwise still featuring solid arrangements, and his usual strong vocals merge perfectly with every song.
There are a few major outliers, but rather than being the album’s weak point, they tend to be the stronger offerings found on Building a Beginning. The first comes early with Me and You, exploring a folk sound that completely foregoes anything to do with funk or R&B; it’s very much the opposite of what Lidell explores on the remainder of the album, but something that suits his voice anyway and doesn’t suffer too much for being so different. The tail end of the album then features Precious Years, another folksy track that instead focuses on harps and strings to build into a grandiose bombardment, even more oddball in the context of the album than Me and You.
But given Lidell’s genre-bending reputation, it’s no surprise that he stepped out of the confines of what the album wanted to cover to create something a little different. And even if the songs don’t all fit perfectly together, there’s barely a moment of Building a Beginning that stutters once it gets into its groove after a few tracks. While it’s not a revolutionary or overly-exciting offering, Building a Beginning is a solid album from Jamie Lidell that manages to hold its own even when following an album as ambitious as his self-titled affair was.