The xx – Coexist
Golden Lady considers the battle between style and substance on the new xx album:
When any band or artist release an album to mass critical acclaim, hopes for an equally satisfying follow-up present an epic, epic challenge. 2009’s debut album, xx, was quite brilliant, fleeting between electronic euphoria and pop magic. Tracks such as VCR captured the hearts of a wildly unsuspecting audience, with the album going on to sell more than a million copies worldwide, a massive feat for any unknown band these days.
There’s no doubt that there lies a deep-rooted formula within the xx universe. They create succinct and engaging music. Masterful at teasing, never quite arriving at that sonic climax you might be hoping for. Whether intended or not, they’ve built a deep, dark musical castle for themselves, in which they roam about like ghostly shadows.
We get much of this same spirit on new album Coexist. Sonically, things are glorious, produced by bandmate Jamie Smith. We get a slightly upgraded version of their majorly chilled out beats, atmospheric pads and heavily reverbed vocals. However, one can not help but feel that style and substance hover over the finish line, undecided as to which crowns the other. The absolute strength of the songs seems diluted. Where previously they recalled distant surf guitar tones of Chris Isaak and perhaps the slick maturity of Sade, this time around, they’ve clearly intended to gravitate away from anything like this, which is a shame really, as The xx are more than capable of creating the impossible: credible pop.
Both Olly and Romy ever so gently croon and whisper, never quite completing words or phrases, which unsurprisingly, is what contributes to an increasingly tiresome sound by the end of the record. Lyrically, things never quite resolve, leaving one perpetually suspended mid-air.
However, all considered, Coexist remains a far more focused and exciting record than most you’re gonna hear this year. Epic shifts are clearly not what these guys desire, or for that matter require. Honest, minimal and insular are all that we need from The xx for now.
Review by Golden Lady