The xx


Written by: TAJ on 22/12/2012 19:33:24

The xx's subtle tunes snuck their way into everything from radio plays to hit lists and TV ads etc. back in 2009 with their debut "xx". When people realised what they subconsciously had been listening to from several directions, The xx quickly became a widely known name, by discovering a sound so unique it was both easily recognized and didn't immediately make any similar bands come to mind. A sound characterized not by what The xx do but with what they refrain from doing being the backbone to this sound and success. It is minimalistic but packed with emotion. This alluring simplicity strikes some points so basic, it results in The xx’s listeners being a very myriad crowd drawing fans that would otherwise be divided across many different genres.

By this standard The xx was in for quite a job to not disappoint on this follow up release “Coexist”. An extensively discussed question - if they would stick to this sound or explore new areas - keeping many waiting with anticipation. The former proves to be the case, and even though I feared it would end up a pale attempt to write the first album over again, I am pleased to announce that they have managed to preserve this singular sound and write an album by at least the same standard.

Even as this album thrives on the same vibe and it may initially sound like not much has happened since the debut, there is an evolution to make note of. First of all the production is exceptionally tight, delivering each tone in a crystal clear form, ensuring that not a single spark of emotion in any word or note is lost. I didn’t think it possible, but secondly the already striking minimalism from "xx" is taken to a new level. Now every redundant layer has been peeled off, leaving only bare bones making up the skeleton of the songs, often in shape of vocals accompanied by few or only one instrument.

Dynamics serve as the muscle on the bones, making the songs move you. The xx also show great sense of dynamics, both with the contrast in the male/female vocals, but also with the organic - seen as vocals and guitar - versus the electronic inputs like drumbeats, synth etc. from producer/DJ Jamie Smith. Take “Tides” as an example that emerges with only simple vocals, then added a kind of off sounding guitar plucking, only to bring back simplicity and an easy feel by using a straightforward drumbeat as a tool. Or how about "Swept Away", in which a house beat hides lurks in the background, while a guitar plays the melodic part thereby withholding an organic part to the mix. It's not what one might usually connect with the term house, but the more original mind-set of that genre, and it conjures a balanced feel which is comfortable yet energetic.

"Coexist" is somehow a denser more immersive listen compared to "xx". This feeling is maintained throughout the whole album resulting in the tracks going by almost unnoticed as you as a listener is put in a captivating yet strangely stagnating state of mind. So to put it simply The xx have created a very similar album but with minor different traits that make it come out with a new feel. An album that refines and a nourishes the details which can now be said to be the band's trademark.


Download: Chained, Fiction, Tides, Swept Away.
For The Fans Of: Portishead, Blue Foundation, The Jezabels.
Listen: facebook

Release Date 10.09.2012
Young Turks Records

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