The xx- I See You


Rating: ★★★★ ·

When your first album is a sweeping success, how do you move forward and create something that both steps away from your past hits yet strikes the same sort of resonance with your painstakingly huge fan base? This seems to be the question that plagued the ever-huge The xxon their sophomore album–while new tunes from these indie rock darlings immediately grabbed my attention and affection, these feelings didn’t bring me back to continued listening. Third time around, it seems like these South Londoner’s have shaken off the chains of their past catalogue and pushed into exciting new space.

With I See You there is a key caveat–to really dig into the songs, you need to be willing to accept the pop simplicity that the band has tried their hand at this go-round. Before, it sounded as though the band made their own sound, which shaped and happened to appeal to pop listeners, but here they’ve put their own spin on pop music itself. On this album, the tight and intricate guitar-work that first drew in early fans has been supplemented with sampling, and more synth breakdowns. However, for The xx, this feels like a natural and logical progression.

The band launches straight in with dance-ready opener “Dangerous” with sampled horn sounds. You’re rooted to the track by the prevalent bass line, pulled closer by the ever-enticing male/female tradeoff in vocals that this group has always excelled at. These vocals are punchier than you’ve heard them before; more commanding and compelling. This grip that The xx puts on you holds strong through the first four songs. Single, “Say Something Loving,” isone of the superstars of the album, again the vocals are demanding and so strong, begging you to scream along with them. The samples are integrated with the vocals seamlessly, hitting you ears with ease and not distraction.

 

Later on you get tunes like “Replica,” and “I Dare You,” which rely on the bands’ knack for sleek guitar riffs. “Replica” is a simmering dark track with shimmering interludes of lightness. This song may not hit you hard with immediacy on your first spin of the record, but provides a less obvious treat for the next listen with its detailed lyrics. On the contrary, there’s “I Dare You,” which stomps into the penultimate and will immediately jump into your favorite track place. The percussion on this song is a steady beat of what sounds like sampled handclaps, which puts a dance-rythym immediately into play. Those sleek guitars mirror the vocal melody, playing into the pop aesthetic, an the result is pure bliss.

 

Overall, I See You is a bright and bold move for The xx, striking an easy-listenable balance between intricate and simple–offering hooks for your first listen and subtleties that will hold your attention and have you coming back for more. Like the ‘new love’ high that a lot of the lyrics touch upon, you want to stay with I See You for the long haul; “don’t let it slip away.”

Show Review: The xx @ ACL Live (2/11)

When The XX announced their Austin show, tickets were virtually gone within minutes, forcing the band to add another show immediately.  Such is the demand and the hype associated with the British group after the release of their album, Coexist.  They brought friends Austra to town with them, giving listeners a glimpse at the operatic IDM realm. 

Read on for some thoughts on the evening and pics.

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Show Preview: The XX @ ACL Live (2/11-12)

Date 2/11-2/12
Location ACL Live
Doors 6:30pm
Tickets Tonight/Tomorrow


Ticket Link Warning – If you don’t mind sitting behind a speaker, you can still get a ticket to either night’s show.

Indie darlings of moody sparseness, The XX are coming to town to play two nights and ACL Live. Austin Town Hall will be present tonight to give you all the lowdown on the show to see if you should sell your soul to go tomorrow night. A lot of people are way into Romy’s soft vocal, but the best song on the latest effort, IMHO, is the more upbeat, primarily Jamie XX-vocaled “Fiction”. Digress.

Now, The XX are cool and all, but to be honest, the openers Austra have spent more time on my playlists over the past couple years. I am looking forward to their set after having seen them at FFF6 in the broad daylight, not the best environment for their beauty-electro goodness. So here is a track to get you in the doors before their set starts at 8pm…

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Austra-The-Beat-and-the-Pulse.mp3]

Download:Austra – The Beat and the Pulse [MP3]

The XX – Coexist

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Back in 2009, The xx made their way into the hearts of indie fans with their sleek and sensual first album. It was breathy, moody, electronic, and danceable: a combination of elements that seemed to strike resonance in younger audiences with their minimalist R&B sound. Consisting of guitar, bass and drum machine, the first album made waves and ended up atop a lot of year-end lists as this band transitioned from unknown to popular in the scope of the indie world in their buzz-band success. Now, three years later, Coexist begs the question: can this band power through their rapidly achieved success and be more than a buzz-band?

The two songs that they released as singles make their appearance early on this sophomore release. “Angels,” is up first, and it serves to introduce the band’s new sound. The familiar deep and soft vocals of lead female vocalist Romy Madley Croft greet you, along with impossibly more minimalist backing instrumentation.  It’s a slower, mellower track, which is a common theme for this album. The next song and other single “Chained” picks up the pace, with a faster beat provided by the drum machine, and a groovy guitar riff towards the end. Both of these songs provide a palette for the rest of the album, as most of the songs fall under the categorization of these two tracks. Other immediate standouts include “Sunset” and “Swept Away,” which fall as more musical and sonically interesting tracks.

It’s difficult to categorize this album as either interesting or fairly dull when it is so far in the shadow of the first album. At first glance, the sound of Coexist feels overwhelmingly empty; it’s missing those sharp guitar riffs that made the music edgy and playful in the first place. However, when you’ve gone through the album a few times and let go of your qualms that it’s not, in fact, the exact same tone of the album that was released three years ago, this collection of songs becomes a natural progression for The xx. The group relies less on breakdown after breakdown and focuses on a deeper, more somber overall sound. You won’t find the overwhelmingly playful waves of electronic elements that previous tracks, such as “VCR,” but instead you’ll find that waves that don’t bounce quite as high, keeping a lower profile.

Coexist is very much a sophomore album in that the band progressed their sound, making it drastically different from their first album and garnering a label of ‘maturity,’ which allows them to move past the hype and establish themselves as a sold Such a change can be noted even upon the differences in the artwork of these two releases. The first is stark, with harsh lines in a bold, black and white display, whereas this album displays the same ‘x,’ but with a soft swirling of color on the inside. What will be different about the design of the next album, and will this band be able to progress yet again, while keeping the fans of their original sound?

2009 Top 50 Albums

bestof2009cover_albums

Creating a Top 50 Albums list is never easy.  You have to battle with what you think the world believes, and what you truly believe in your heart, to be solid jams.  We have even more trouble because we have to three writers, all who have different ideas, and we have to make those ideas fit into a neat box.  Well, we got it done, and honestly, our criteria was based on two things: how great we thought the album was, artistically speaking, and how long we listened to it without getting bored.  That’s it. It’s fool proof; you might not like it, but it’s our list, so here it is… Read more

FT50: Songs of 2009

bestof2009cover_songsWe have to start this list off with a disclaimer.  We have three writers, all with different tastes, so the list should reflect that a little bit.  Also, these are our opinions, and by no means, are they meant to be seen as an “end all be all” to the question of what were the best songs of 2009.  That being said, we like our list quite a bit.  Sure, it’s got some expected numbers at the top, but the rest of the list is genius.  We’ve got some of the songs streaming for you, and the rest take you straight to youtube.  Follow the jump for full list.

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