Jamiroquai doesn’t rap, but the British hat act otherwise known as Jay Kay has made a career out of appropriating African-American pop, particularly that of Stevie Wonder. On Synkronized, Jamiroquai’s fourth album, Kay’s retro jones blazes on, albeit with a new twist: Imagine if Wonder had made a disco album in 1977! With producer Al Stone, he’s concocted an eerily perfect homage to that era, setting his songs to the swooping strings, wah-wah guitars, and boogie-wonderland beats of the Studio 54 era. ”Got canned heat in my heels tonight!” Kay exults in ”Canned Heat,” while the murkier ”Black Capricorn Day” conjures the what’s-your-sign vogue of the ’70s.
There’s no denying the craft with which Synkronized was made, and Jamiroquai is smart enough to toss in a few curveballs, like a Latin-hustle break in ”Planet Home,” a ”Riders in the Storm” piano in the instrumental ”Destitute Illusion,” and trendy turntable scratching in ”Supersonic,” which is passable coffee-table techno-funk. Still, the album’s re-creations of pop past are as absurdly pointless as they sound. Synkronized is a hat trick done with the sharpest chapeau in the store, but it’s a trick all the same.