British trio can co- exist
THREE years ago The xx debut took the world by storm.
It was a cult hit that quickly became a commercial breakthrough and a winner of the coveted Mercury Music Prize.
This year, with the element of surprise vanquished, expectations have been set much higher. Thankfully, the trio has shrugged off the outside noise and created a bunker for themselves in which to write their unique brand of bruised, emotive, brooding, atmospheric and mopey music.
Opening with Angels makes perfect sense. Reflective, melancholic, wistful, gentle, it’s one of the band’s most restrained offerings to date. Romy Madely Croft sings of all- consuming love, the kind that hurts. Musically understated, her voice shines brightly over some languid guitars and occasional rhythmic flourishes. It’s a treat.
In many ways the songs on Coexist sound very much like the last album’s tunes – the tag team vocals, the crystalline guitar lines, the restrained percussion. In tone and style these albums are obviously twins but there are new influences creeping in too.
The steel pan drums on Reunion jump up as a prime example. So too the dance music influences, presumably via Jamie xx who has carved himself a side gig as an indemand DJ during his day job’s down time.
Sunset, Swept Away, Tides and the latter half of Reunion all sound vaguely house music inspired. Not the Jersey Shore or will. i. am’s cheesy definition of the genre, more an xx take on the early days of deep house. It’s in the drums and the bass and the swirling, cyclical melodies.
The bass on Sunset is warm and round with Croft’s lovelorn vocals framed to present the ache of seeing a person she used to feel for but now things have changed. This song is also the album’s best example of how powerful it is when her vocals overlap with bandmate Oliver Sim’s. There is tension and tenderness, bubbling and overflowing.
Closing number Our Song is a pure moment without adornment. The pair whisper secrets to each other, it’s vulnerable and magical. These friends, who can’t even remember a time when they weren’t in each other’s pocket, deliver lines like: ‘‘ And there’s no one else, who knows me, like you do.’’ Not tricky songwriting, but effective. Looking at indie music releases, it’s easy to imagine Frank Ocean, Grimes and The xx battling it out for the No. 1 spot on 2012 Best Of lists.