AOTW Review :: The xx ‘Coexist’
September 12th 2012
Two vulnerable voices which seem like they might, at the slightest touch, topple off dark clouds and into infinite night; The xx’s Romy and Oliver slowly breathe all their emotions out over the course of their band’s sophomore offering, Coexist. They ran a relay together in their self-titled debut album, taking turns to bear the weight of the words that drain them, each voice sounding like it had only the slightest of grips on the threads of the other’s frayed heartstrings. This time around, they each wrap those threads of emotion tight around their respective fists and pull each other closer, oftentimes singing harmonies and facing things together.
It all sounds quite serious really. Luckily, there’s a third member of The xx who secretly enjoys the music those curiously non-melancholy kids boogie down to at discothèques all across Her Majesty’s United Kingdom. ‘Sunset’ follows the reverb-soaked guitar, guy/girl tag team vocals formula, but it’s at this point in the album where Jamie’s influence is most obvious. He’s a man with an enviable solo career as a beatmaker, kneading songs by Radiohead and Adele amongst others into UK-Garage-influenced groove fests. Not to mention his reworking of Gil Scott Heron’s entire I’m New Here record. With ‘Sunset’, somehow all he has to do is write a catchy little rhythm for the kick drum and get some hats trotting along on the up beats for this poignant break-up song to become irresistible to your feet. Not wanting to leave the music underdressed, the talented producer then spreads a layer of what sounds like the warped, outer space echoes of a marimba struck 500 years ago.
All of this results in a sound which is departure enough from their first effort to be notable, but not so different as to not sound like The xx. Some bands spend a lot of time trying to drastically develop their sound and stay way ahead of the curve, but The xx don’t seem to feel that pressure, or at least they don’t actively pursue it. This is not due to complacency, but rather a conscious choice to – rather than evolve – continue down the path they’ve forged and try not to repeat themselves. This band knows they have a lovely little niche in the musical world. The instantly-recognisable meshing of Romy and Oliver’s understated, breathy tones, combined with Jamie’s floaty production, injected with just the right amount of thump – it’s a brilliant formula, and one that will do good things for them in years to come.