I See You by The xx
Almost five years since the release of their sophomore album, Coexist, The XX are back with I See You. It’s their most experimental output yet it loses nothing of what we may now acknowledge as their signature sound. Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft are a love couple at play, in constant conversation and turmoil. His bass speaks to her guitar, and both sing and play in harmony and alienation. But the grooves that furnish their sound are all thanks to Jamie xx, who builds up a home around the pair, slowly adding insulation and texture. Together the threesome have a sound that is not quite boxed into Brit-pop, indie, electro or minimalism, but is, however, quintessentially English, be it the tragic and sometimes ironic lyricism evocative of The Human League, Depeche Mode or Morrissey, or the rhythms that seem to echo – slowed-down – the indie beats of the mid-noughts Klaxons or Arctic Monkeys.
Opening with the rolling beats of ‘Dangerous’, the transition into the aching ‘Say Something Loving’ has a surprisingly transcendent effect; there’s a kind of brutal yet uplifting sadness to the seeking, reaching quality of the tracks. The single ‘Hold On’ epitomises this sentiment, with Sim and Croft calling out while Jamie quietly loops under whispers of regret. The album as a whole tells a story of appearances, a kindness disguising sadness, miscommunications passing for truth, love as performance or lie, and it uses a structure of crescendos like mountain peaks, taking you up and up and then sending you hurling to the bottom again. It’s hard to know how to move to an album like this; it’s not dancy enough to make a fool of yourself to, so perhaps I’d recommend it for long solo drives, or very early morning after parties, good for personal reflection.
Jemima Bucknell is our Online Fulfilment Manager.