Jamiroquai

Automaton

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As the title implies, Jamiroquai's eighth studio album, 2017's Automaton, is a dancefloor-friendly production inspired as much by lead singer Jay Kay's famous love of sports cars as Giorgio Moroder's synth and drum machine-heavy productions of the '70s and '80s. More broadly, the album also fits into Kay's fascination with the effect technology has both positively and negatively on our lives and on the planet (i.e., 1993's "Emergency on Planet Earth" and 1996's "Virtual Insanity"). Which is to say, this is pretty much the same album Kay has been making since at least 2001's A Funk Odyssey. Here, we get several catchy club-ready singles ("Automaton" and "Cloud 9") front-loaded with a handful of pleasant, often inventive album tracks designed less to rock the charts than for Kay to rock the European tour circuit. To those ends, Automaton works quite well, finding Kay in fluid vocal form and living up to his image as a global, time-traveling, playboy magic-man. Helping Kay conjure the funk magic this time is longtime keyboardist Matt Johnson, who co-produced and co-wrote much of the album. While previous outings found Jamiroquai evincing Moroder's slick robo-funk, Automaton is the closest they've come to making an outright Moroder-style album. Which means that, while the album plays well with the disco end of their output (think "Little L" or "Cosmic Girl"), fans of the group's more organic, analog funk end may come away feeling somewhat compressed. In that sense, Automaton fits nicely alongside similarly inclined works like Daft Punk's own Moroder homage Random Access Memories and Two Door Cinema Club's Gameshow. With Kay's lithe croon at the center, cuts like the aforementioned "Cloud 9" and the steamy "Something About You'' are black-light dancefloor bangers full of pulsing synths, icicle-crisp guitars, and the occasional goosebump-inducing orchestral string flourish. Also infectious are tracks like the Rick James does '70s Europop number "Hot Property" and the humid disco anthem "Summer Girl," replete with a chorus of female backing singers. There are few bands who play classic disco-funk with as much genuine love for the genre and care in the productions as Kay and Jamiroquai. Ultimately, it's that sense of love and good vibes that drives much of Automaton.

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