The xx refines sound with new album

By Kira Scammell

The xx isn’t doing anything new with its sophomore album, but that isn’t necessarily a bad…

Beggars USA Press

The xx release its sophomore album, demonstrating a more mature sound.

The xx isn’t doing anything new with its sophomore album, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After three years of anticipation, the band released its new album, Coexist, this time infusing its effortless style with a bit more refinement.

Like a loosely knit sweater comprised of Oliver Sim’s simple bass lines, Romy Madley-Croft’s delicate guitar and producer Jamie Smith’s electronic undertones, Coexist makes for an album that caresses but doesn’t overwhelm.

Their debut release, xx, knocked everyone off their feet in 2009 and went platinum in the United Kingdom. Although The xx’s success was immediate, the trio decided to take its time writing Coexist. The xx brings the pop sound down a notch and injects more soul, giving its sophomore album a slightly softer and warmer sound than the first.

The songs melt into one another as the album progresses, the band intending listeners to play the album on a turntable. Most songs on this release are about love, but that doesn’t mean they’re overly sappy or too specific so as to come across whiny or droning.

Unlike their debut album, Madley-Croft and Sim wrote the lyrics together. Where lyrics from xx whispered soft coos into listeners ears, Coexist looks directly into their eyes.

Using the simplistic element of repetition to create buildup, Smith incorporates elements of dance music to add a level of depth to Coexist that was missing from xx. Since the band’s debut in 2009, Smith has worked with artists such as Gil Scott-Heron and has remixed popular artists like Adele and Florence + the Machine in his free time.

The well-received singles “Angel” and “Chained” remind us of what we love so much about The xx. We want to hear the stripped-down love songs that make us want to take off our pants while simultaneously crying about the love that just isn’t working.

In “Try” fans will hear an eerie but appealingly distorted siren sound that becomes more significant with each repetition. The song is combined with lyrics like “you know the way I / can’t resist you I / said to myself I’d try / Why do we waste time / hiding it inside? / I want you to be mine.” Listeners can relate to the simple lyrics but can also be persuaded to look past them and appreciate the individual elements of the song.

Although listeners won’t hear anything groundbreakingly new, they will hear a more developed and mature sound on Coexist. The album isn’t perfect, but it blends different musical elements that react as oil does to water: They coexist to make a rainbow in what could be overlooked as just a puddle.