If you can tell how good a band is based on how they sound without all the dress-up, then the XX is surprisingly accomplished even at this early stage of the game.
There’s so little going on musically that it’s hard to peg them as an electronic band, but this London quartet (now paired to a trio thanks to keyboardist Baria Qureshi’s recent departure) is obviously indebted to ’80s electronica on their debut.
The very things that keep XX as qualifying as an electronic album are the same ones that make it special. There’s an incredible amount of depth going on from just a thin layer of atmospheric keyboards, a twangy guitar and the hushed vocals of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim.
XX is beautifully dark and melancholy from start to finish, with very little difference in the execution of each song. When you’re dealing with such limited musical sources and progressing at half-speed while doing it, you can easily cause listeners to lose interest. But not here; Croft and Sim sound like a couple in their duets, and with such whispered delivery, you’re forced to listen.
And like an ear on glass over the wall, you’ll catch some keen observations on young relationships. From hanging out in front of HBO (“We watch things on VCRs…and talk about Big Love” – “VCR”) to enduring high maintenance relationships (“Do I have to keep up the pace / Just to keep you statisfied?” – “Crystalised”), Croft and Sim provide intriguing point/counterpoint moments throughout XX. The highlight is “Infinity,” a “Wicked Game” type of ballad where Sim actually sounds like he’s in another room singing his parts. “Give it up” he moans out while Croft-who’s way up in the mix on the left channel matter-of-factly responds “I can’t give it up.”
It’s moments like those-the hints of depth and intriguing stories-that call for repeated listens. And because XX is seasoned with so few instruments, it’s very hard to grow tired of it.
The arrangement strategy is a bold move, but it’s the lyrics where you start to understand how this is a very complex record for such a young band. “But if stars should shine/by their very first time/then dear, its fine” they sing on “Stars,” and The XX shine remarkably bright on their debut outing.
Video: The xx – “Crystalised”
Video: The xx – “Basic Space”
13 thoughts on “The XX – XX”
What year is it? 1985? I think I saw them open for Echo and the Bunnymen!
As usual my tastes coincide with Todd’s…I like this CD a lot, though it’s mostly as background listening.
Here’s a nice live version from some dudes that record touring musicians on Amsterdam bridges (the whole series is pretty entertaining):
Put your shoulder pads away, Grandpa Scott.
yeah, i’d been hearing buzz about the xx but hadn’t really been paying attention till i saw them near the top of a poll of 800 blogs http://mog.com/features/blog/1650410 and yeah, they deserve it
Derek, I wear shoulder pads on the outside, cause shoulder pads is how I feel on the inside.
Love the XX btw. I ain’t hatin’
You stole a line from my Top Shelf of the decade! Bastard!
I don’t mind a couple songs, but overall this album bored the living shit out of me.
When are you going to want to put this album on? When you don’t want to be compelled to actually listen to music? That “Crystalised” song is okay, and “VCR” is nice, but a whole album full of this? No.
Bored is how I feel on the inside.
You sound very angry, Jake. Clearly the music touched something in you.
Jake, put your Smiths denim jacket on over your vintage cardigan and hang the fucking DJ! It’ll cheer you up.
I’m not angry or unhappy. There’s plenty of music I actually like listening to!
Happy New Year.
I’d put this record on to get some action. It contains auditory pheromones.
Thank you, Sean. THAT’s a good answer.
I’ve got to admit that every time one of these songs has popped up on shuffle recently, I’ve liked it more and more. Latest example: “Islands.” That’s a pretty cool song.
Never listen to anything I say.