Album Review: The xx – ‘Coexist’

Posted: 14/09/2012 in Uncategorized

As published on on September 14th 2012

It’s been three years since The xx unleashed their stunning debut album xx on a largely unsuspecting listening public. The non-listening public have consequently experienced the album’s wonders too, whether they know it or not – the widespread synchronisation of their montage-friendly brand of minimalistic music has brought them to an even wider audience than they ever dreamed possible. Countless soundtrack appearances aside, there’s also been the barrage of critical acclaim, legions of fans, sold out tours, cracking that tough nut that is America, being sampled by Princess of Pop Rihanna – and above all else deservedly winning the 2010 Mercury Music Prize for ‘Album of the Year’. But the time has come to chalk xx up as a classic and move on. Hopes are undeniably high for the follow-up, Coexist– in fact, the burdening weight of the debut even conjures feelings of ‘more of the same will do just fine’…

Lead single and album opener ‘Angels’ paves the way – the slow-burning vocals of Romy Madley Croft conveying the hopes experienced in the embryonic stages of a relationship, backed my minimal guitar riffs and rumbling percussion. The brooding vocal delivery on ‘Chained’ brings Oliver Sim into the fore, a stark reminder that yes there are two incredible vocalists at work here, juxtaposing in perfect harmony as the production talents of Jamie Smith slowly crank up. Smith spread his wings in the interim of xx and Coexist, embarking on a multitude of diverse solo projects – producing for both Gill Scott Heron and Drake, and remixing tracks for British musical royalty such as Adele and Radiohead. The expansion of his talents is evident on Coexist, most notably on ‘Reunion’ – restless steel drums permeate the opening third of the song, before a simple yet infectious beat kicks in and gains elemental momentum building towards an exquisite climax. ‘Sunset’ serves as fine example of the lyrical advances Croft and Sim have made this time around, matters of the heart lamented with simple honesty but by no means devoid of poignancy. A barrage of bass n’ beats rise to prominence on ‘Swept Away’, with the added presence of keys also welcome – winding down with a delicate instrumental section, it’s a late contender for the album’s standout track. Behind it all, as examined with closing track ‘Our Song’, are three friends who’ve grown up together and just so happened to combine their talents to make minimal yet meticulously brilliant and haunting music.

The predestined objective of Coexist was quite simply to not be too much of a let-down – and in that respect, it more than surpasses expectations. Detractors may dismiss it for not being adventurous enough – but when the foundations laid are so sturdily, then why try alter the structure? What The xx have done instead is craft an understated expansion of their sound – it’s still very familiar, but in paring back some aspects and upping the ante of others whilst maintaining the power of intermittent quiet there’s enough to maintain intrigue. If you loved xx, then Coexist is quite simply a must-buy.

  1. […] Today marks the return to the grind for me, as I’m sure it does for a lot of others are too… So here’s a tasty l’il remix that’s been helping me beat the back-to-work blues. Jamie xx re-works his own original magic with this edit of ‘Sunset’, one of the standout tracks from their 2012 slice of brilliance Coexist. […]

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