It’s hard to imagine a more cathartic concept for an LP made in 2016 than Love in a Time of Madness. James initially planned on this being a double album. One side would be about love, and the other about societal madness—a response to the systemic and often physical violence perpetrated on U.S. citizens of colour. But as he worked on the music, he recalls, “The madness part was getting way more out of control. The murders kept happening and it became overwhelming and depressing.” So instead of rehashing the pain, James doubled down on the part of the album that could provide healing: love.
“Movement has been on my mind,” says James. “Not just hearts and minds—I want people to hit the dance floor. I could make jazz albums the rest of my life, but I want to reach people, man. I like Jamie xx as much as I like Miles Davis, you know? ”
James’ first two LPs were released by BBC DJ Gilles Peterson, and inspired by London club culture—but typically in a supporting role. Here, slinkily seductive, atmosphere-heavy tracks like “You Know I Know” and “Closer” are the rule not the exception, and testament to his desire to move more listeners than ever before. There’s a little gospel in the mix, thanks in no small part to legendary guest Oleta Adams. There’s also a promise, one that we all need to hear in times both good and bad: “I’ll be right by your side.”