Release Date: Sep 11, 2012
Record label: XL
Genre(s): Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Indie Pop
I was there, in 2009 when everyone was swooning-to-death over The xx. I was one of them, caught in the fleeting grip of the uncapturable, savouring the momentary luminescence. To me their debut burned with ephemerality. Each breath of each note coated with electricity, the twin voices of Oli and Romy spiralling in double-helixed coalescence.
It's not what the xx put into their music. It's what they leave out. On their second LP, as on their 2009 debut, the Londoners are masters of restraint, building songs from simple chord progressions, delicate guitar and keyboard ostinatos, the gentle rub of Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim's his-and-hers croons – and, most of all, from silence. The musical minimalism is matched by the lyrics.
Three extended years without a fresh release -- a sophomore release, for that matter -- can cause a young band to recede into merely a soundtrack of another distant time, rarely resurfaced and shelved for the memories. Yet for ethereal London trio the xx and their latest Coexist, the lengthy wait has heightened the already lofty expectations following the band’s remarkable debut xx. And these three impatient years have proved well worth the time -- for not only a refined sound, but also a keen mastery in both production and concision.
Although Coexist is not much of a departure from the band’s debut (in fact, it is more an extension of it), The xx has refined its sound, creating an even sparser atmosphere. But there is strength in this minimalism. Each word is intentional; each note is felt. And when exploring the concept of the star-crossed lovers, The xx inspires the listener to reflect on the one who was never fully attainable.
The xxCoexist[Young Turks; 2012]By Will Ryan; September 14, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetIt's been three years since The xx's eponymous debut. It's a significant portion of time for a group that seems so involved with the emotional repercussions of age and maturity. On xx, singers Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim were reciting lines they'd been writing since they were fifteen.
It seems almost paradoxical to suggest that an artist’s debut record can be so fantastic, so well-received and so successful that they’re in a no-win situation. Yet that’s the scenario that could be facing London trio The xx. Their first album, 2009’s xx, won The Mercury Music Prize, went platinum and reached the Top 3 of the UK album chart – astonishing feats considering the type of music the band make.
For those of you who love The xx at their most sad-eyed and romantically dysfunctional, we recommend ignoring the first track on their second album, ‘Coexist’. Wafting in the same rarefied airspace as ‘Stars’ did on their 2009 debut ‘xx’, ‘Angels’ is the boldest Valentine the band have ever recorded. Romy Madley Croft swoons against ethereal guitars, repeating the word “love” like she’s been sucker-punched by the sheer intensity of her heart-shaped feeling.
Once, pop songs achieved ubiquity through the simple business of being played frequently on the radio. Nowadays, ubiquity can lie in the interstices, a place that rather suits the xx. Even if you never bought a copy of their universally adored, Mercury-winning, instant-classic debut of 2009, chances are you will have heard most of it in snatches. Uninterested passers-by, who do not habitually hold with black-clad bands of young people from south London tilting at the sublime, will have heard it too.
On their second album, the xx face the challenge offered to all bands who emerge fully-formed, with a distinct and instantly recognisable musical aesthetic: what to do next? The London trio's answer is to take their already skeletal frame and further strip away any excess fat: for the most part Coexist's songs are defined as much by space as by sound. The gaps bring greater emphasis to the spidery guitar lines, the occasional steel pan, the distant icicles of piano, and the voices of Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim. The album's theme is heartbreak and the intensity with which love catapults one into a private world: a tone set in the tender single, Angels, where Madley-Croft sings "they would be as in love with you as I am", with the private knowledge that only intimacy brings.
With English trio The xx, you get the distinct sense that each member is essential to the whole. Remove singer/guitarist Romy Madley Croft, singer/bassist Oliver Sim or producer Jamie Smith and it's hard to imagine their restrained and atmospheric pop sounding complete. Coexist isn't a reinvention, but marks a clear step forward sonically from the group's much-loved 2009 debut.
The xx's first album was the whisper heard 'round the world, a fashionably sparse disc of distilled love songs made more powerful by their stark surroundings. The London group has seen success after success since the release of their 2009 debut, their music equally suited for soundtracking cinema as it is for trendy restaurants and, of course, clubs. Their producer Jamie xx has built an entirely separate career in the meantime, releasing tracks for Numbers and remixing an entire Gil Scot-Heron album, touting a nebulous idea of "club music" that would apparently come to define the latest xx material, which finally hits three years later in the form of Coexist.
Love songs aren’t subtle. Everything about them is overblown: the emotions, the choruses, the superlatives. So it’s exciting to hear the minimalist U.K. trio approach their new-crush odes with such austerity in Coexist — just a few steady-droning Casios and an 808 rhythm that buh-bumps like a heartbeat.
The xx's self-titled debut was the kind of record that filled a void most of us didn't know existed. Several currents of music flowed into the work of this London band to create something that felt strangely new. Singers Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim treated the pop song like a whispered secret, an achingly intimate exchange best understood in the general vicinity of a bed.
?Let it unfold.? The xx are nothing if not patient, taking years to write songs that demand repeated listens. On ?Unfold?, one of the few tracks on Coexist nearly devoid of Jamie xx?s distantly recognizable thump, Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim tell a putative lover/each other/us to wait for it. ?Out of sight, out of mind/ Doesn?t mean you?re not mine/ The feeling goes on and on and on.? It?s been three years since The xx first wrapped us around their little finger, seducing us with XX?s sinister, sexy minimalism and then leaving us hanging with unsubstantiated rumors of a second album.
In the years between their debut and Coexist, the xx's sound took on a life of its own, thanks in large part to Drake's hit duet with Rihanna, "Take Care," which sampled Jamie Smith's collaboration with Gil Scott Heron, We're New Here. That single embodied and popularized the xx's aesthetic to such a degree that on first listen, Coexist can sound like demos for a potential follow-up. In turn, these songs lay the trio's R&B roots bare, with an extra emphasis on that last word: while second albums are where bands usually add more elements to their sound to keep things interesting, the xx go even darker and sparer than they were on their debut, which was pretty sparse and dark to begin with.
Painting minimalist soundscapes in shades that range from muted darkness to pitch-black atmospherics, the xx has never had the most supplies in its art box or the broadest palette. But what made the xx’s 2009 self-titled debut stand out was the nuance and care with which the band used its basic tools, as it maintained an impressively consistent aesthetic while throwing in enough variations on its main theme to keep things vital. Whether the first outing was spare by design or by necessity for the newbie act, the album showed that the xx was masterful at making the most out of not-a-lot, nimbly tweaking tempos and drawing out subtle contrasts in tone to create dramas of hardly seen visions and barely heard sounds.
On their seductive, self-titled debut, the xx painted a portrait of lovers on the brink, two souls that, while still utterly obsessed and lovesick over their faltering relationship, couldn’t help but drive each other away in frustration and regret. The band’s now-signature sound followed suit: a come-hither mix of minimalist, Aaliyah-inspired R&B and Interpol-style guitar work that resulted in some very beguiling make-out music laced with just the right amount of angst. The band’s sophomore effort, Coexist, is the next stage of our couple’s journey: Now separated and devastated, the lovebirds (again voiced by the wonderful, whispery-throated duo of guitarist Romy Madley Croft and bassist Oliver Sim) muse on what went wrong in a kind of resigned back and forth that one imagines might have taken place during a hastily placed midnight phone call.
Back around the time of recording Kid A, Thom Yorke professed that he was "bored of melody." Twelve years down the line, it seems that The xx, a band whose near-eponymous debut album saw them achieve Radiohead levels of acclaim, have reached a similar conclusion that there's more, as well as less, to a song than a hooky refrain. .
“I think of the postmodern attitude as that of a man who loves a very cultivated woman and knows that he cannot say to her ‘I love you madly’, because he knows that she knows (and that she knows he knows) that these words have already been written by Barbara Cartland. Still, there is a solution. He can say ‘As Barbara Cartland would put it, I love you madly.’”– Umberto Eco Come real loveWhy do I refuse you?– The xx, “Fiction” It’s virtually a truism that the age of modernity is an age of disenchantment, in which the forms of transcendent belief that pervaded society, that humans swam in like fish in water, no longer provide that sustenance, that necessary oxygen.
Refined progression, this is the sound of a band both expanding and consolidating. Mike Diver 2012 Subtlety comes in several shades, sometimes so slight as to be near imperceptible. The xx, Mercury winners with their 2009 debut and unlikely global stars since, were never going to overhaul their sound for album two; but spend a while in Coexist’s company and the London trio’s evolution is evident.
Like 11 beautifully silent machines working in perfect harmony, the XX's eponymous 2009 debut became irreplaceable. Londoners Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim, and Jamie Smith fused together the perfect number of notes and turned them into a modern classic of illusive singularity. Coexist doesn't have an enviable position as The Next Statement, but it's armed with the same effective weaponry.
Two years since shooting into indie royalty, the XX find themselves exiting adolescence in a hectic flurry of public interest. You might expect the heady lifestyle to jump-start their serotonin levels, but after a pillow-soft debut, Coexist does what few might have predicted: tones things down. Not in an emotional sense, however. With typical elegance, the London, UK trio take the opportunity to address a few vital truths about being mopey, lovelorn youngsters here, namely that 1) getting dumped is a bitch and 2) sometimes getting over it isn't high on the list of priorities.
THE day that “Coexist,” the second album by the miserabilist British band the xx, was mastered, the group’s three members — Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim, Jamie Smith — went out for McDonald’s. Each day during the months of recording the album, on the way to the studio with black velvet-covered walls they were hunkered down in, they’d walk past McDonald’s and sigh, tempted by the smell but not giving in. But once the record was done, they gave in, sitting down for a few burgers each.
2009 was a big year for spacious music. Over those 12 months, the Antlers lulled us with fragile sadness on Hospice, JJ smoked us up with woozy Afropop on jj n° 2, and Neon Indian bared his chill-wave soul on his debut album, Psychic Chasms. The year wasn’t all about empty space—Dirty Projectors’ Bitte Orca and Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion serve as exhibits A and B of 2009 also containing music that was chock full o’ stuff—but a bunch of bands embraced openness in their sounds.
There are plenty of reasons to be grateful for the continued presence of The xx in the UK pop music ecosystem. For a start, they're free of bravado: given that the previous decade's British guitar music had been dominated by lager-swilling swagger and sonnets to smack, their 2010 debut was a refreshingly slight and understated little thing. Its essential oddness might since have been undermined by its subsequent ubiquity as background music to kitchen sink BBC dramas (and fifty quid man's kitchen stereo), wildlife documentaries and (apparently) the Prime Ministerial four-poster, but it remains central to their appeal, especially in the live arena, where there's an ever-increasing discrepancy between the hushed nature of their songs and the enormous crowds they're performed to.