The xx - xx - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The xx - xx

by Hiro Master Rating:8 Release Date:2014-05-31

Every so often, an album comes along that speaks to you in a way only the most intimate of lovers knows how. With every note, every beat, every lyric, you feel beguiled. The xx's eponymous debut uncovered a formula that was as comforting, wholesome and pure as it was fresh, fragile and free. This album was a lesson on focus, on exploiting your assets, and on knowing when to say enough is enough. By having the prudence to say "no" in the studio, the band showed a maturity beyond their age and produced an album that redefined indie music in 2009.

Producer Jamie Smith, the man responsible for the album's beats, was a revelation. He took control of the band's emotions, with creative grooves intricately positioned to maximise effect. But despite Smith's tireless campaign, so much of XX was about the vocals. Exposed and vulnerable, these delicate voices needed to be strong enough to lead a sparse ensemble. They were. Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft combined to produce a precious double act, not least because they seemed to know perfectly how to rein each other in. Sim's muted harmonies harnessed Croft's anguish without robbing her of her moment. Equally, when Croft needed a lift, Sim answered with measured intensity.

Each track played an important part in the construction of the album, but 'Fantasy' stood out. It was an incredibly effective intermission that segued beautifully into 'Shelter', one of the broodier songs on the album. Perhaps the biggest surprise, however, was how well the following track, 'Basic Space', worked. The last of arguably the most powerful trio on the album, its calypso groove threatened to upset the mood. But it quickly found a routine that respected the album's vision while adding a new dynamic.

So where to from here? Too many bands have produced the album of their career in their first outing and not been able to back it up. But The xx have something about them that suggests despite their minimalism, there's a of a lot more to come. With Smith's remix of Gil Scott-Heron's I'm New Here on the way, this now-three piece could prove it has the depth to reinvent itself time and again. Here's hoping.

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