The xx : Coexist
The xx’s music has a hushed and intimate quality, like a private conversation between two people. It’s as if you’re not just listening to the songs, you’re intruding on them, hearing secrets that weren’t really meant for you. The songs on The xx’s self-titled debut were built around a bare minimum number of elements – murmured vocal interplay between Romy Madley Croft and Oiver Sim, spooky, echoing guitar tones, and crisp, precise beats, situating the songs at some indefinite point between indie and R&B – and their second doesn’t mess with this basic arrangement all that much.
The best example of their ability to do a lot with a little may be in Reunion. The song opens with Croft and Sim’s voices circling each other warily over a backing wash of steel drums; it slowly fades out, and you think it’s all done, then a whooshing snare comes in to propel both of them to the song’s conclusion. It’s a simple but spine-tingling moment, the kind of thing The xx do better than just about anybody. They seem to have figured out that if they parcel the good things out in small doses – the achingly beautiful melody on opener Angels, the shivering harmonies on Try – they’re even more effective. As minimal as The xx’s music is, there’s an undeniable pop appeal – it’s no surprise that Intro worked so well when Rihanna repurposed it as Drunk On Love, or that Drake has made overtures to beat-maker Jamie Smith. Coexist hits all the right pleasure buttons with the least amount of fuss, and is definitely one of the year’s finest.
BY ALASDAIR DUNCAN
Best Track: Reunion
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In A Word: Spooky