Album Review: The xx – Coexist

By on Wednesday, 12th September 2012 at 12:00 pm

Sophomore effort ‘Coexist’ from moody indie outfit the xx is full of the same great ambient, melancholic music of their Mercury 2010 award winning debut. Romy Madley-Croft, Oliver Sim and Jamie Smith took their time crafting this album, just over 3 years. There is a lot expected from these three. Still extremely young, garnering such high praise and success so early in their careers, something often not found hand in hand, they had a lot to shoulder. It turns out we are in luck, this album is a triumph and worth the wait.

It manages to repeat the successes of the past without sounding stale, including just enough new to show growth but staying true to their signature sound. The differences from the first album are subtle, clearer vocals in the mix, a deeper but still wandering bass, and a flow between tracks that can’t be beat. Despite Smith claiming that “club music has definitely had an influence on the next record” a year before, I had a hard time seeing that. Perhaps it’s just a club I’ve not been to.

Combining the soulful intonation of Sim with Madley-Croft’s nearly whispered vocals, the songs resonate with the kind of longing and unresolved relationship tension that is their calling card. The album opens with lead single ‘Angels’ with a sound that reflects the ubiquitous ‘Intro’ from the first album, all pulse-y and breathy. In the brutal ‘Unfold’, Madley Croft murmurs “In my head, you tell me things you’ve never said, and I chose to forget, I take the good and leave the rest”. For someone who is at the end of a relationship, this song could just about tear them asunder. Music has power to both raise up and tear down. Despite the massive appeal of the xx, this song should come with a warning label for already depressed or lovelorn souls. Another stand out, ‘Reunion’, is simply hypnotic with its steel drums and repetitive chant.

Still extremely sparse and minimalist, it almost makes you want more, straining for just a bit of embellishment. But when it subsides, you are strangely satisfied anyway. I know of no other band that can tease out an almost build to the music without disappointing you by not finishing it. The xx seems to have found a mystical formula to do just that. The original critical acclaim heaped on the band came at a time when music was needing a fresh injection. With ‘Coexist’ they prove that they are not only great musical craftsmen, but a still-needed voice in the ever-clanging music industry.


‘Coexist’, the second album by the xx, is out now on Young Turks. Bits of the band’s intimate BBC Maida Vale performance for Steve Lamacq in late August were broadcast are during the final hour of Lammo’s last Monday night’s programme. It’s available on iPlayer here until next Monday morning.

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