Review Summary: Don't call it a sophomore slump
In some ways, xx
is comparable to The Weeknd’s House of Balloons
(forget for a moment that it was released first). Both albums are dark, sexy and seductive, but in being driven by ideas around naivety and lust both rely on immediacy and direct effect. In the same way, Coexist
could be seen as The xx’s Thursday
. With spidery guitars, delicate vocal duos and precise percussion, it’s still the same core style as xx
, but Coexist
progresses The xx’s sound to the next logical step in the band’s story- one which portrays the gritty fatigue following the comedown after the début and its themes of youth and immaturity.
is all about the subtleties. In contrast to before, The xx’s sound seems matured and weary, and it’s certainly not as immediately enjoyable or coherent as it was on xx
. The tight-knit confines of the debut have been blown into desolate landscapes that barely string together the fragmented and skeletal motifs within, but every moment is meticulously planned; no note doesn’t serve a purpose and no sound (or lack of) is included if it isn’t necessary. The vocals are weary and detached (with Modley Croft and Oliver Sim often going long periods without interacting), filled with emotional longing and nostalgia for the innocent and happy days of before. The reverb has been increased, distancing the delicate guitar licks from the rest of the music whilst mechanical 2-step beats whir underneath- further driving forward that harsh and cold sense of tension, sleeplessness and detachment. Influences from club music are twisted and decayed, reflecting that sense of nostalgia and deterioration as if to paint an image of a deserted dance-floor. A soft bass rumbles in the depths and sprinklings of a variety of different instruments are scattered throughout. In between is space, which serves just as an important role and has just as much of an effect as the actual music; and above it all are the sleeper hooks, which take several listens to dig and bury beneath the skin. There is an almost unbearable tension between all the parts of the music- a constant anticipation for the moment when another part will enter and collide with another, completely changing the tone and atmosphere of the music with just a little slide, gentle click or perfect moment of harmony. At times, in the deliberately paced trance of the music, it feels like that moment may never come.
is a remarkable achievement. The xx have taken parts of their sound to their extremes and stripped down their music to such an extent that every minute detail and hint of transition slams with intense effect. “Angel” is captivating, catchy and brimming with pained emotion, but works simply off Modley Croft’s delicate vocals, some sparse guitar notes and the occasional tapping of percussion; incredible considering it serves the role of lead single. In “Missing”, a moment of silence lingers a little longer than seems comfortable, sending the music crashing down when it re-enters with nothing more than a slightly altered and conflicted tempo. The beats will shift every now and again or a subtle guitar riff will kick in (such as on “Tides”), jump-starting a shallow groove. A note will hang in the air just a little longer than it should do. Once in a while the music will come together for a fleeting moment of perfect harmony, before falling to pieces again. Every element of the music works towards that intense emotional stupor and it takes several listens to truly appreciate. Coexist
is music in tatters, and that’s exactly how it was meant to be.