Tis the season to be releasing your second album, and the quality of this one certainly gives reason to be jolly, even though, after their debut record ‘xx’ went on to win the Mercury Prize, The xx were surely feeling the pressure.
Getting the only negative comment out of the way at the start, there are moments on the record, particularly in songs’ introductions, where something intangible seems worrying familiar - are they using all the same chords? I’m not sure, there are, after all, only so many to choose from. However, this stripped-back low-fi soundscape was the breath of fresh air which sparked intrigue in their first wave of material, so perhaps the feeling of similarity which cloaks some tracks shouldn’t be considered a turn-off.
Anyway, as with my recent review of ‘The Vaccines Come of Age’, it’s the new touches and experimentation which provide the most enjoyable facets of this record. Musically, The XX have added some new sounds to their repertoire: ‘Sunset’ features an almost-techo thumping beat alongside their trademarked wistfully wandering duelling guitar and riffs adding a contemporary edge to their unique style, while the prioritised bassline in ‘Chained’ adds more listen-ability to and the synth-simulated steel drum-like sounds on ‘Reunion’ prevent the record from lulling into repetitiveness.
Female vocalist Romy has expanded her range and developed her singing technique too which, particularly on opener ‘Angels’, creates something worryingly close to a singalong song. ‘Missing’ also allows her to explore this as she wails backing vocals creating echoes and harmonies with co-lead vocalist Oliver. These harmonies and exchanges remain key to their sound and the moment in ‘Tides’ where they cut in and out finishing each-others’ sentences is a particular highlight.
Lyrically, the themes of loneliness and lost love continue, but the courage of the singers to speak their minds has grown exponentially, particularly in ‘Angels’ where Romy sings overtly of love and dreams of angels, the lyrical brilliance of the track providing one of the many indicators that The xx are one of Britain’s bravest bands continuing to deliver at the highest level.
‘Coexist’ is out now on Young Turks.
You can currently stream the album for free here: