No Sophomore Slump for the XX
Cole von Richthofen
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 23:09
If the low-key, indie pop band XX’s namesake debut album, “xx” was the “basic space” between lovers, their sophomore release, “Coexist,” shatters said connection in a way that is both highly minimalistic and yet beautifully composed; that is to say, the release is the musical manifestation of pillow talk. Not only do the aforementioned couple (voiced by guitarist/keyboardist Romy Madley Croft and bass/synthesizer player Oliver Sim) face the loneliness and regret following their break-up, but the record is the first since the trio lost its fourth member, guitarist Baria Quereshi, in 2009.
Fans of the XX will be happy to hear a sound similar to “Islands” and “Intro” in the new album, released September 10, 2012. In the single and opening track “Angels,” Croft sings alone (having sole authorship of the lyrics), in what is perhaps the most beautiful song of the entire album. Despite being airy and subdued, her lyrics – such as the repetition of “they would be as in love with you as I am...” – are brimming with passionate recollection, creating a surprisingly deep connection with the listener within the first few albums of the album.
The album, best listened to at a moderately loud volume with a fair amount of bass, does not contain a single track to define the others. It isn’t often that poetic music is found outside of rap in contemporary music, making songs like “Fiction” all the more special. While “Angels” is Croft’s own, Sim takes full ownership of “Fiction” with lines like “Fiction when we’re not together; mistaken for a vision, something of my own creation.”
The album, best in order of track listing, is a wonderful conversation between Sim and Croft; the pair alternate between addresses to each other and chorusing, musing about the heartbreak and lonesomeness they both feel in turn. The voices weave throughout most of the album in beautiful composition; “Chained,” in addition to featuring some of the sound of 2009’s “xx,” is an intricate yet mellow tune perfect for those euphoric days or meditative moments in between hours of schoolwork.
“Tides” is the duet of the record, wherein both beg the other to “stay with me; why would you want to leave?” In perfect fashion of a couple in regret, the tragedy of recent events between them is apparent in this song above all others. The volume of the melody follows a pattern of tides, rising and dropping like the bumps in a relationship or the waves in the ocean.
Other tracks, like “Reunion,” will be perfect introductory tracks for those unfamiliar with the XX; it has the greatest variety of instruments, featuring steel pans in a way not often explored outside of island music. As someone who fell in love with the XX in 2009, this reviewer is happy to report that the XX is as good as ever.