Review Summary: Best New Music
Pitchfork Media is loved by many, and loathed by many others. The problem with a popular music review site (and many other things in life) like Pitchfork is: you just can't please everyone. Music is a very subjective and personal thing that people hold near and dear to their heart, so hearing someone say that De-Loused in The Comatorium
"just isn't fun
", or how El Cielo
"makes no sense", won't sit well with some people. On the other hand, the website is a great place to find new bands. From a band's perspective, Pitchfork can be their best friend, or their worst enemy. Pitchfork has nearly single handedly launched careers from unsigned bands countless times, and shot down up and coming bands just about as many times. Getting slapped with a "Best New Music" tag basically guarantees you a legion of new fans and a platform from which to start a career. It has been seen earlier in 2009, with a bunch of guys from Staten Island called Cymbals Eat Guitars. Their self-released debut album slipped quietly under the radar until Pitchfork got a hold of it and skyrocketed the boys to indie fame. Southwest London based band The XX is following a similar fate. Their debut album XX
(also known as 2.0
) has been met with critical acclaim across the blogosphere, and also has received the coveted "Best New Music" tag. Does this band deserve such praise? Absolutely
The XX is a quartet feautering two males (Oliver Sim - Bass/Vocals, Jamie Smith - Samples/Programming), and two females (Romy Madley Croft - Guitar/Vocals, Baria Qureshi - Guitar), all of which would be denied a beer at a bar in the US. Yes, 4 teenagers have created better music than most artists who have been playing their entire 30+ year lives. Just like most teenagers, they enjoy pop music. Not just pop music however, the band also loves their cult indie bands. Citing their influences as, "Rihanna to The Cure, Missy Elliott to Chromatics, The Kills to Ginuwine, Pixies to Mariah Carey and Justin Timberlake to Tracy + the plastics", the band creates music just as antipodal as the way they list their influences. Their debut album effortlessly combines pop music with that special indie edge that makes the band unique. In just under 40 minutes, the 11 tracks compose a beautifully simplistic emotional experience that will beg for repeat performances.
Everything about XX
is stripped down and simple. Jamie Smith keeps his beats facile, sticking to drumming you would hear in typical pop music. This might seem like a downside, but this approach works very well in the context of the music. Croft and Qureshi's guitar work is also straightforward, but always interesting and compliments the music and mood. Sim's bass is low in the mix, but works well with Smith's beats to create a steady rhythm section. Most of the songs have a slow, dark feel to them, somewhat reminiscent of a trip hop band, but broken down and turned down a few notches. All of the songs work to showcase the dual vocals between Oliver and Romy. The two trade off verses like love letters written to each other, then come together for a chorus that you can sing right along with. The vocals are spoken smoothly and softly, just like the music behind it. Each of the 11 songs are strong in their own right, making it hard to pick one song over another. XX
is an album that needs to be listened to as a whole, and at just 38 minutes, it is an easy listen. One track in particular, 'Infinity', is a standout track to a degree. Starting like many of the previous tracks with Oliver's bleak croon and a reverberated guitar, the track drones on with verses traded between the two vocalists, and a sample of what sounds like a baking sheet being beat with a bamboo stick. Lead single 'Crystalised' works in a similar way, but with a happier and upbeat tone.
It would be hard not to like this stunning debut from this brand new band out of London. The lyrics all deal with love, and when tossed between Sim and Croft, the listener can almost feel the emotion coming out of their voices. Sim sings out, "I can give it all on the first date/I don't have to exist outside this place/And dear know that I can change" while Croft replies with, "I can draw the line on the first date/I'll let you cross it/Let you take every line I've got/When the time gets late" on the perfectly placed closer 'Stars'. The lyrics do not come across as cheesy or immature, but rather heartfelt and soulful. The only thing that drags this album down from perfection is the lack of diversity in the songs. This problem is very small though, and will not turn anyone away from enjoying this record.
is an excellent debut that is sure to launch The XX to indie fame. This very well may be the soundtrack to some hot indie sex, the music is just right. From the stripped down approach to pop music, to the dual vocals and sexy lyrics, The XX have crafted an album worthy of any praise they receive, especially "Best New Music". The future looks bright for these teenagers from London.