Review | The xx


The xx, Coexist, XL Recordings,

Coexist begins with a husked whisper promise, “they would be/ as in love with you/ as I am”, which sets the half-unheard intimacy of The xx’s second album. Coexist is a soft, tentative testament to the fragility of relationships produced after the intense schedule of world touring for their first album, xx. Are Oliver Sim and Romy Madley-Croft singing about the band, or about love affairs that are barely surviving the initial obsessive infatuation documented on xx? Jamie Smith’s percussive sound backdrops for Romy and Oliver’s counterpoint vocals, guitar and bass are as querulous on this record as they are confident on xx. Coexist is the first record on which Romy and Oliver sing each other’s words, just that fact adds an undercurrent to the interplay of The xx’s two leads.

Overall, Coexist is more delicate and somehow more normal than xx; it’s more coy. Depeche Mode inflected ‘Fiction’ flutters its eyelashes as Oliver ponders his luck, “you’re more than I can believe/ would ever come my way”. He could be nodding to the phenomenal success of The xx’s sound: the first record tsunami’d into the national consciousness: becoming the soundbed of choice for broadcasters everywhere and epitomising in a few drop notes the 2010 general election.

Coexist is characterised by its languid rhythms. Less insistent than those on xx, the beats driving this collection of songs forward are at times relaxed and at others reluctant. This is a record of the part of a relationship where you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, surely something will go wrong? Bittersweet ‘Unfold’ promises to “choose to forget” things that should have been left unsaid. What sounds like a glockenspiel ripples through the fatalism of ‘Reunion’.

“My heart is beating/ in a different way/ been gone such a long time” Oliver intones on ‘Missing’. It’s the central sentiment of Coexist. If you kissed someone while listening to xx, chances are you’d fall in love with them. If you kiss them with Coexist playing in the background, you might break your own heart. It’s still a celebration of love but it’s now a more hesitant and introspective document of relationships that The xx present to the world. It ends with a prayer-like ‘Our Song’, “there’s no-one who knows me/ like you do” Romy and Oliver whisper together before the song cuts off in a quick breath.

Arike Oke

Coexist is released on 10th September and you can listen to a stream of it on NPR’s website for a few days. What do you think?

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