The xx
xx


4.0
excellent

Review

by Jonathan Kroening USER (29 Reviews)
April 20th, 2010 | 15 replies | 2,467 views


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The xx’s successful debut is damp and anxious, yet never loses focus as a sexy minimalist love diary.

Dubbed as one of the best debut albums of 2009, xx thrust English band The xx into the indie rock limelight rather quickly. Released in the latter half of 2009, xx was considered to be a wildly original and promising premiere. The tone is brooding and deep, caked with reverb in a minimalist aesthetic. Permeating the tracks are tales of unrequited love and adolescent longing which would seem to be in direct contrast to the maturity displayed in this coherent debut release. Yet xx is comfortable in itself; it’s not trying too hard, but exercises confidence in an honest effusion of its identity. Many artists take multiple messy albums to stumble upon a release as self-assured as this, but The xx have accomplished such a feat in their first attempt.

In many ways, xx is the antithesis to albums like Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion and Dirty Projectors’ Bitte Orca. Instead of employing tactics of saturation and layering, The xx rely on vulnerability and sparsity. Where Dirty Projectors take every iota of their weird originality into a song, The xx keep it simple and straightforward, structuring their pieces much more like pop songs than strange indie processions. However, these aren’t “pop” songs per se. Most of the tunes are dark and shadowy, electing for a naked and even cold disposition over bright and hopeful pop music.

The introductory instrumental, “Intro”, sets the mood for the bare sensuality that is the pronounced atmosphere of the album. With electronic stop-and-go beats similar to the field of trip-hop, xx begins on its journey through tunes that possess both what is hot and cold, at times seeming to inhale frost yet radiate steam.

The following two tracks are “VCR” and “Crystalised” which both speak of love’s quandary. Each song was released as a single and stand out as some of the stronger material on the album. “Islands” continues the theme of melancholic devotion, exploring the catch-22 of the safety of relationship and the coincidental extinguishing of other alternatives, and “Heart Skipped A Beat” further plays on the Shakespearean proclivity for tales of unrequited affection.

The motif of love and loss is consistent on xx and the back and forth vocal approach of singers Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim lends to the relational subject matter of the album. As lines are sung in a conversational style, with female and male vocals interchanging, it tends to put the lyrics further in a dialogue context.

Some of the The xx’s best moments are found on the latter half of the album. “Infinity” is one of those occasions, inducing memories of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” by way of an identical chord progression. The guitar and reverb inevitably also contribute to the likeness between “Infinity” and the 1991 pop/rock hit. Moody pieces “Stars” and “Night Time” equally add to the congruence of xx and it’s evident upon wading through the eleven tracks that while it might not be the most breathtaking music ever put to tape, there are certainly moments that take your breath away.

The adolescent lyrics evoke emotions everyone has experienced. It’s a time of teenage angst and sensationalized drama that can so easily be overblown by exaggerated songwriting and production. Instead, The xx strip down the songs, avoiding the trite and cliche through a mesmerizing simplistic delivery. What could easily have felt vapid and overdone is neutralized by subtle and crafty instrumentals.

If there is one thing that is unsettling about this release it is that xx is so understated that it leaves a want for more. More so, it’s unclear whether this desire is for more of the same or for The xx to break free of the calculated restraint of the album. There’s is a reluctance to be effusive here that is unnerving. The sustained reticence stirs up a feeling of restlessness, like there is something bubbling up inside that needs to scream. Each time the record plays it’s as if this might be the time The xx let it all out. The inhibition perhaps is what makes xx such a beautifully subdued album and keeps listeners coming back for more.

4 / 5 stars

-Jonathan Kroening
www.itsjustmusic.net



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Justus0
April 20th 2010


23 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

constructive criticism/praise welcome...

Blindsided
April 20th 2010


1871 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Just an fyi you might want to remove that link at the bottom if it is your site since advertisement on the music site is frowned upon.

Romulus
April 20th 2010


8434 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

And we can see that your name is Johnathan Kroening already. Very nice review though.

Fugue
April 20th 2010


7353 Comments


Just an fyi you might want to remove that link at the bottom if it is your site since advertisement on the music site is frowned upon.


He might have reviewed it there first, and is putting the link in there so as to show it's not plagarism.

Review is nice enough.

RobotFrank
April 20th 2010


344 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good review. I was hyped on this at first and dug it for a little while.. but it's not that exciting, gets boring after only a few listens and overall leaves a hollow feel. Too little variation with too little happening. I liked the concept at first, but I don't still listen to this..

qwe3
April 20th 2010


21362 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

He might have reviewed it there first, and is putting the link in there so as to show it's not plagarism.


nah hes advertising. look at his profile picture

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
April 20th 2010


15035 Comments


honestly what harm is being done?

natey
April 20th 2010


4170 Comments


im offended

ihopeuchoke
April 20th 2010


668 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"honestly what harm is being done?"

It killed my dog!

STOP SHOUTING!
April 21st 2010


631 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"the Shakespearean proclivity for tales of unrequited affection"
so, tell me, what Shakespeare plays are about unrequited affection?

sometimes it reads like you have thought of some good words and just want to shoehorn them in to your review. which means it doesn't quite flow.

as for the music, it is good at first but doesn't seem to engage enough, maybe due to the dual vocalists.

Justus0
April 22nd 2010


23 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

To STOP SHOUTING!:

"the Shakespearean proclivity for tales of unrequited affection"...

Helena's unrequited love of Demetrius in A Midsummer Night's Dream
the entire play of Twelfth Night!!
Iago's unrequited love for Desdemona (or some claim even for Othello himself) in Othello


STOP SHOUTING!
April 22nd 2010


631 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I haven't read those first two plays. But Othello is more about not belonging, masculinity and political intrigue?

But sorry man, my comment was a bit harsh.

Justus0
April 23rd 2010


23 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

no hard feelings STOP SHOUTING!

one of my weakness is a tendency to overuse adjectives. i generally want to say so much that i use too many words in an effort to not leave anything out. if it would help my reviews flow better to pare it down, i surely will. thanks for the thoughts.

Enotron
April 23rd 2010


7695 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

It's a perfect quality record, but it's also incredibly monotonous.

Enotron
April 23rd 2010


7695 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Certainly. I just hope that they switch up the pace a bit on their next record. Listening to a handful of songs on XX is really pleasant, but listening to the whole album can be a bitch.



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