Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The xx

The self-titled debut album from The xx was my favorite album of 2009. Granted, this was a bit of a guilty pleasure. At least one friend was aghast, having gotten sick of overplay. But what can I say? It's just a bloody superb album. There was much talk about how the band knew how to use space, how they underplayed everything. The rhythms, so understated, programmed and played by Jamie xx are the heart of the music, good enough for dance music but pulled back to a bare minimum. Romy Madley-Croft's chilling voice and guitar are the second weapon. And listen to "Islands" below and tell me that she doesn't have a genius-level feel for how two or three well-placed guitar notes can transport you to the stratosphere. And finally, there's Oliver Sim, the bass player whose vocals play off Romy's, much like Martha Graham and Rudolf Nureyev on stage. A bit hyperbolic, you say, but there you are. (I should mention that second guitarist and keyboard player Baria Qureshi who played an integral role on the album is not with them anymore). The album is top to bottom, brilliant, not a single misplaced song or note, and washed in so much reverb that once you finish hearing it, real life noises will sound uncannily plain and mundane. You'll want to return to The xx again and again and again, I guarantee it. These are perfectly crafted anthems, ideal for that hushed after-party feeling, best listened at 3 AM, as you wind down the night, empty bottles around and no one but you lying on your bed.

The xx have a new album out called Coexist which is supposedly even more minimalist and less beat-y than the debut. I confess I have not heard it but am looking forward to it. They are playing New York (actually the Paradise Theater in the Bronx!) on October 26 and 28, and I can't for the life of me imagine how these songs will translate on stage. We shall see. Stay tuned for a review. In the meantime, here's two old tracks:


Anonymous said...

heard 'angels'from co-exist on jools holland.lovely!

spaceman said...

Yeah, I saw that the other day too. She kills with that voice.