Artist: The xx
After their eponymous debut LP, The xx had a lot to live up to. While Coexist has mostly avoided disappointing, it doesn’t quite offer the same surprise that xx caused three years ago.
Romy Madley-Croft, Oliver Sim and Jamie Smith have stuck close to their signature fragile sound, but the experience they have gained since xx’s release is audible. With Jamie xx spending most of that time remixing everyone from Florence and the Machine, to Radiohead to Adele, he seems to have gained a huge amount of confidence, and this accompanied by Madley-Croft and Sim’s hushed, almost haunting vocals gives you the xx you know, but with a much deeper, more refined sound than before.
At the same time, Coexist manages to be almost more skeletal than its predecessor, only featuring the spidery guitars and sketchy bass so typical of The xx, along with intermittent, unobtrusive percussion. Their minimalistic approach stretches as far as taking advantage of the simplicity of quiet; with ‘Missing’ pausing for a few moments of radio silence before an electrifying return.
While the album lacks a standout pop track, it has its own xx blend of dance-floor fillers in ‘Reunion’ and ‘Sunset’, but the hooks of ‘VCR’ and ‘Islands’ have vanished. The opening tracks, ‘Angels’ and ‘Chained’ are easily the best on the album, despite being some of the most gentle on there. They feel frank and open, almost naked, and yet, still manage to create an intrigue which takes you through the remainder of the record.
The xx haven’t exactly broken any new ground, but it is a return in form that still manages to feel fresh, while never abandoning the slight, understated genius in their signature sound.
In a Nutshell: A low-key triumph.