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Album Review
The xx

The xx
by Coexist

Young Turks

Review Date
14th September 2012
Reviewed by
Matthew Cattin

Simplicity is a concept The xx understand better than any - the melancholy mystique brought to life by silence and subtlety. Their 2009 debut xx was breath-taking in its minimalistic ease, a formula they have left unchanged on their follow up Coexist.

'Angels' opens the record slow and cold like morning. Clean guitar rings out with reverb, bringing Beach House’s dream pop quickly to mind. Romy Madley Croft’s smooth voice takes control, intimate and wistful. So relaxed are Croft’s vocals, it’s as if she’s singing to herself in private - precisely the magic of The xx. A love song - devotional and lonely - ‘Angels’ is so quiet that every detail is vividly, even painfully audible. The silences between phrases are expectant and deliberate, almost as telling as the singing. It’s easy to get lost in the dark atmosphere.

The dueling vocals of Croft and Oliver Sim return in ‘Chained’. “We used to get closer than this. Is it something you miss?” As complementary as their voices are, there are no harmonies to speak of. Instead they sing the same melody lines, their voices melting together perfectly. They match each other vocally so seamlessly it’s as though their voices couldn’t be pulled apart but I think the song would be enhanced by simple harmonising. Instrumentally there are no surprises; the same guitar tone from the debut is once again looped over familiar beats. Without any discernible change from the debut, my high expectations for Coexist left me neither disappointed nor surprised.

The remainder of the album unfurls without a hitch, ‘Reunion’ breaks the mould with the soft pattering of steel drums and the stripped duet ‘Tides’ exposes bare break-up hurt. Album closer ‘Our song’ contrasts soft bass in the verses with a pulsing synth chorus, fading out the album as quietly as it began. It’s beautiful in its tranquility but I feel it is holding back, wasting an opportunity to morph out of its tired cocoon into a beating pulse of noise. Of course, this isn’t The xx’s style but after a debut album of delicate and withdrawn intricacies, a change of atmosphere could have brought a few tracks to life in the sophomore. Taking the obvious and safe route with album number two sees the band once again proving the old maxim, ‘less is more’. It worked this time around – 11 beautiful tracks that expand on the debut but fans may need a bit more on their next release.



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