Review | The xx – Coexist
by Courtney Leigh Allen, is originally from Seattle but now writes, lives and paints in the great city of Boston, Massachusetts.
It’s been a little over three years since London’s The xx released their self-titled and award-winning debut album. Their second album, Coexist, is a solid follow up that just sounds like the same old xx. Whispering vocals, check. Ambling backing tracks with accompanying drum beats, check. But it wasn’t until I went back to listen to their 2009 debut that I realized just how different – and good - Coexist really is.
At first listen, the new tracks sound much quieter. But what comes off as quiet is actually a much more sparse and minimal approach to each and every track. On the first single, and album opener, Angels, vocalist Romy Madley-Croft’s voice often whispers over breaks in the backing beats and percussion, which stop and start both quickly and quietly.
On Try, the track opens with a siren-y beat, but often each element or layer trails off as another begins, with added beats kicking in around Oliver Sim’s vocals. ”And if we try once more, would you give me it all? I won’t believe it, till I can feel it,” Romy whispers back on the track. The xx has always been described as sexy, but the new album is more of a slow smouldering kind of sexy. This is makeup-washed-off, threw-on-an-old-tee-shirt kind of sexy.
On other tracks like Reunion, the beats pick up and get more layered, but there’s still a basic element to the vocals that reverberates throughout the entirety of the track. And tracks like Our Song, and Tides lead with vocals, instead of beats, which is a complete departure from their debut, where almost every track had that signature xx lead-off beat. The vocals are just as hushed but more confident and central to the sound on this album.
The xx has hit the perfect middle ground. There’s continuity from their debut, but they’ve veered off course just enough to give us something new to absorb, which is all we can ever hope for in new releases, especially from bands who did such a stellar job on their debut.