Music

Jamiroquai: Automaton

After a seven-year hiatus, Jay Kay and band return with a sharp view of technological dominance.


Jamiroquai

Automaton

Label: Virgin EMI
US Release Date: 2017-03-31
UK Release Date: 2017-03-31
Amazon
iTunes

Twenty years after “Virtual Insanity” gained Jamiroquai massive success, including the band’s best-known song in America, and seven years after their last album, the band returns with Automaton, a strong statement on life in 2017. Disconnection runs rampant across this album, despite catchy hooks and dance-laden tracks, as Jay Kay and the band drive a division between our interests and our pursuits. The group highlights our experiences and simultaneously our distractions when we go out, when we come into contact with others, and when we listen to music across Automaton.

My familiarity with Jamiroquai waned significantly before the band’s seven-year hiatus and the gap between albums, but this album drew me in and never let go. The visuals presented by the music and lyrics of the title track and lead single are complemented by the video with Jay Kay as the eponymous “Automaton", exploring a wasteland set of sewers and abandoned beach adorned with a unique technological headdress (as the singer often wears unique head gear to criticism and compliment). Sequenced after “Shake It On” in the album’s tracklisting, there is a definite sense of identifying what we are missing every day with our reliance and allegiance to mass media, the like button, and the #hashtag.

Building on the theme of breaking disconnection by interaction and exploration, “Cloud 9", “Superfresh", and “Hot Property", document the relevance of personal connections and participation in a community. Jay Kay’s lyrics reference dystopian films and the limitations of relationships built in a digital landscape, while the music in these tracks deserves to dominate a dancefloor and cultivate in that environment. Automaton sounds dystopian as a title, but the band pushes for hope and optimism despite reliance on aspects of society increasingly lost by technology and solitude.

With “Something About You", the band is fully out of the shell of those themes and goes forth to focus solely on the personal connections built through dancing and shared moments. The next track illustrates this transition back smoothly, “Summer Girl” is fun, hot, and deserves a prolonged remix on the dancefloor. The track is Jamiroquai’s “Summer Girl” and it’s just in time to go out and get a “Summer Girl” at the club and enjoy the connection made. It drives the fun, dance-laden grooves on this album, looking past dystopian effects explored in the opening tracks before the band starts to return to those themes slightly with “Nights Out in the Jungle.”

Themes of death and destruction return with “Dr. Buzz", and the lyrical calls to Sergio Leone films and the lawlessness of the Old West mark the album’s return to the solitude and loneliness experience in modern life. The concluding lyrics pleading for an antagonist not to shoot the song’s focus identify the prospect of redemption despite lost humanity carried by the album’s title and the mood. The final tracks of Automaton plead for saving, “We Can Do It” and “Vitamin” focus on the prospects of human contact, and the impact of music as a catalyst for reborn relationships. The closing track “Carla” completes that vibe, with a new love found to document an escape from the isolation of the album’s first tracks.

Automaton closes on a strong feeling of redemption, with both Jay Kay’s lyrics, and the band’s music providing optimistic flow and positive vibes not dissimilar from the album’s opening dystopia, but progressive enough to end on a completely different note. The album is full of dance-worthy hooks, dreamy in numerous places, but enjoyable throughout. They may not find new listeners after a seven-year hiatus, but Automaton by Jamiroquai is a strong return and experimental contribution to popular music from a band too often identified solely for one song and its striking video.

8

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image