The xx creates new sound without losing identity

In the four years since their last album, The xx have tackled their previous limitations and emerged with a new album, “I See You.” The album plays to each band member’s skills, creating a more coordinated and upbeat sound while maintaining their lyrical flair.

The trio’s third album, released on Jan. 13, is already climbing the charts, similar to their 2012 album, “Coexist,” which also reached the top of the charts.

Since their self-titled debut, the three have mastered the art of indie pop with vulnerable lyrics and crafted instrumentals, creating their distinctive sound.

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“I See You” validated their transition away from minimal, non-ranging vocals that were safe and could easily be performed live. Continual beats throughout the songs keep parallel structure, and minimal elongated silences leave listeners awake and wanting more.

Member Jamie xx, who has released two solo albums, proves to be the key to their continued success. With a knack for intertwining distinctive beats and emotion, he helps construct an adventurous palette in “I See You” that still caters to the original two vocalists’ indie pop and R&B taste. The funky beats and ranging vocals pushed the trio past their reserved tendencies.

The combination of vocals from bassist Oliver Sims and guitarist Romy Crofts  convey anguish, helplessness and hurt in a very minimalistic way which adds to their distinctive sounds. Sims and Croft work off each other in their customary shared lead roles, creating tension and harmonies throughout the tracklist.

Right from the get-go, listeners know that this is an album that screams change. Blaring horns and a tropical electronic beat open the album in the song “Dangerous,” which features an upbeat, club vibe that demonstrates just how far they have developed their style. Validating their new confidence, the song rings: “They say you are dangerous / But I don’t care / I’m going to pretend that I’m not scared.”

One of the more popular songs in the tracklist, “On Hold,” leans towards the pop style, and it is plain to see that this was one of the more experimental pieces that teases the listeners with new material. “On Hold” is a raw look into a high school relationship. Sims sings “When and where did we go cold? / I thought I had you on hold.”

However, The xx don’t just sing about other people’s love. In the song “Brave For You,” Croft’s vocals rise above the instrumentals as she confesses her sensitivity about the death of her parents. “So I will be brave for you / Stand on a stage for you / Do the things that I’m afraid to do.” Sims also reveals his inner struggles and his battle with alcoholism.

Even though the band introduced more range in “I See You,” The xx didn’t forget their original aesthetic, and they have tracks that don’t stray from their usual passionate, complex lyrics. In “Say Something Loving,” Croft sings “Here come my insecurities / I almost expect you to leave.” In “Performance,” the stripping of instrumentals  and minimal electronic sounds leave Croft’s voice to portray sorrowful lyrics without the usual vocal support of Sims. “When you saw me leaving/ Did you think I had a place to go?/ Since you stopped believing I’ve had to put on my own show.”

With Jamie xx’s talents and the growth of Croft’s and Sims’s vocals, the trio has crafted an album that balances their original sound with new beats, allowing them to move confidently forward.

 

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