Alright, I’ll let the cat out of the bag. I’ve had this one under wraps for a while but it’s time people knew what to expect from what could easily be the album of the year.
The XX are back in a very minimalistic but big way.
After their self-titled debut was received beyond enthusiastically by the musical world, everyone was left begging for more. The XX’s sophomore effort is everything it’s cracked up to be in some respects, but a let down in others.
The feel of the entire record, you could even say the feel of the XX, is somewhat shy yet sensual and lustful. Their intention is complex sure, but did they really achieve what they set out to?
This record feels very flat. The entire album feels like a fake orgasm. Nothing in this record feels legitimate or even to be cared for in the slightest. It’s almost as if the XX just want it to be over.
The XX had a very quick rise to stardom, and Coexist is their take on the club music scene that they missed out on. We’ve already been given a couple of singles from these kooky kids who dropped gothic power pop piece “Angels” a couple of months ago. This track is thoughtful and delicate, with just the guitar over two voices, but in the context of the album, which, I might add, is all that matters, it doesn’t retain that evocation.
This track fully displays the beauty that is Oliver XX’s voice. Whilst ominous, it’s his musicianship that provides The XX with a lot of the musical colour they create. On this record, Romy manages, once again, to turn her glassy guitar lines into captivating melodies that circle your ear and swirl around you.
As a whole, the album feels much more down tempo than the band’s debut. Scratch that. The album feels more boring, at least I feel. “Try”, the centrepiece of the album is heavily influenced by the Cure in its riff dominated structure and eerie synth effects. I shouldn’t really say that, because it does misconstrue what the Cure are about to the uneducated ear, however what the XX did with this track is so lackluster to what it could have been. I know that people all over the world will be saying that this is what makes the XX, the XX, but if this is what they’re set to be, I’m not sure I’ll like it.
Moreover, it’s not what they were.
Something which is clearly noticeable is the lack of build up and crescendo throughout the entire album. Whilst tracks like “Crystilized” and “Islands” from the previous record had a clear swell, for the large part Coexist plods along at the same pace, rarely intensifying at all.
The timbre created through the multiple vocalists is still a highlight of the band and certainly acts as a draw card for them.
One aspect of the record I wasn’t really all that fly with, was that the record is structured so lazily. At least 7 out of the 11 tracks start out with a simple drum machine beat that doesn’t relent for the majority of the 4 minutes of each track. Guitar lines are all dreamy and reminiscent of an unimaginative Beach House and the synthesisers lose their dynamics due to their overuse.
A real highlight of the record comes in the form of the very groovy “Tides” which features the polyphony we’ve come to expect from the band.
Album closers “Swept Away” and “Our Song” perform the task they’re required to, rounding out the album as a whole. However it felt to me as though when listening to this record, I was listening to the closing track to the album the entire way through.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a solid album, but I’m not sure it’s all I wanted it to be.