Review | The xx

The XX
Rating:

The xx, I See You, Young Turks

The xx have become living legends of themselves. Their 2009 debut proved to be such a game changer that copycat pop superstars (see Rihanna and Drake‘s ‘Take Care’) are mimicking their unique brand of hushed, confessional heartache to this day. Their sophomore release ‘Coexist’ found the trio, made up of Romy Madley-Croft (guitars, vocals), Oliver Sim (bass, vocals), and Jamie xx (production, percussion) continuing their signature sound with a certain sense of befuddlement and not a little growing pains. Now, with the release of the group’s third LP, ‘I See You’, The xx have come into their own as formidable artists at the top of their game.

‘Dangerous’ kicks off with a jolt of horns signaling that this is a very different affair from previous xx releases to date. The propulsive R&B qualities found therein are paired with a sophisticated, stream-lined sound that conveys the upward progression the group has been on since the debut of their self-titled release. Masterpiece, ‘Say Something Loving’, features Jamie xx’s production prowess, providing a cunningly piquant sample from the Alessi Brothers‘ ‘Do You Feel It?’ that perfectly captures the essence of the heart-rending track that speaks of yearning for the thrill of demonstrative affection.

‘A Violent Noise’ is a sincere exploration of hedonism laid bare, moving in its stripped down, nurturing tone, Madly-Croft crooning, “I hope you silence the noise.” Equally wrenching, ‘Performance’ explores trying to keep it together on the outside, while crumbling on the inside. Speaking of the act of putting on a show to reassure onlookers that everything’s okay is an exhausting and lonely affair. Croft’s subtle guitar work pairs perfectly thematically, resulting in a low-key and effective musical breakthrough in their oeuvre that reveals a heartily sophisticated sound sensibility. Equally glistening, ‘Brave For You’ (dealing with the untimely loss of Romy’s parents) is another haunting, sucker punch punctuated by crashing percussives courtesy of Jamie. This less-is-more approach takes the overly restrained, barely there sound of 2012’s ‘Coexist’ and ups the ante to higher stakes, again driving home the fact that this is a group who have found their essence.

‘Replica’ is a standout track in an album filled with standout tracks. Its driving pulsations are offset by soft, hushed vocals reminiscent of their earliest work brought to peak perfection that only time and experience can aid in. The high-register keys convey a sense of nostalgia that hits directly in the solar plexus, opening the floodgates of yearning and bittersweet nostalgia. Equally marvelous ‘On Hold’ – resplendent in pulsating beats and well-chosen sampling of Hall & Oates‘ ‘I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)’ brings this fully rounded album to stellar heights.

The xx have found their sound and have stepped out from their insular shadows to dive head-first into new musical terrain that is as bold and original as when they made their debut back in 2009. Their greater sense of self looks good on them, and the subject matter as well as the delivery of said subject matter is some of the finest new music to be released to date. A success from start-to-finish, ‘I See You’ captures the imagination as well as the soul.

Megan Beard

See the xx live:

8 Feb – Stockholm, Sweden

10 Feb – Copenhagen, Denmark

13 Feb – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

14 Feb – Paris, France

15 Feb – Paris, France

17 Feb – Strasbourg, France

18 Feb – Basel, Switzerland

20 Feb – Milan, Italy

21 Feb – Lyon, France

23 Feb – Vienna, Austria

24 Feb – Munich, Germany

25 Feb – Berlin, Germany

26 Feb – Frankfurt, Germany

28 Feb – Dusseldorf, Germany

1 March – Brussels, Belgium

2 March – Brussels, Belgium

4 March – Nottingham, UK

5 March – Manchester, UK

6 March – Manchester, UK

8 – 11 March – London, UK

13 – 15 March – London UK

17 March – Cardiff, UK

 

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