After all of the success and acclaim that followed their Mercury Prize winning debut album, it's understandable that The xx
would want to revisit the warm, spacious world they so expertly created three years ago. What's confusing is that so many fans and critics are already hesitant to follow them back there. Yes, on the surface Coexist
would appear to fall into the same trap that many sophomore albums have before it. Rather than make something different, it tries to make something better. What makes it such a deceptive triumph is in the sublime subtlety of its approach. Rather than go bigger and capitalize on the clout that member Jaime xx
has subsequently earned as a dance producer, The xx actually manage to go even more minimal. And they weren't exactly a barnstorming act to begin with.
The vocals of both Romy Madley Croft
and Oliver Sim
sound even more hushed, as if they're singing to each other and no one else. The negative space in each song feels wider and deeper, almost ready to swallow any rhythm or melody that asserts itself. The guitar in intro track "Angels" practically sounds like its trying to claw its way out of it. Yet by expanding those voids, the band manages to pull you in more, offering an even more intimate experience than xx
. Those willing and patient enough to be enveloped will eventually find the updates and upgrades to the band's signature sound they're beckoning for. Sim's star turns on numbers like "Fiction" are more confident this time around, both matching Croft's and adding new tension to their duets. Meanwhile, Jaime's remix credentials slither in via the nagging steel drums in "Reunion" (which sounds like a sequel to xx
standout "Infinity") and the looping dance beat in penultimate highlight "Swept Away."
Lyrically, the focus has shifted from physical connection to emotional, or at least the desire for it if lyrics like "We used to be closer than this" in single "Chained" and "I wish you'd been there" in "Try" are any indication. The shift is a perfect reflection of The xx at this point in time. After the successful flirtation of their debut, they're opening themselves up more, showing the listener any and everything they may have missed about them before presumably moving on to new things in the future together. It's an invitation worth accepting and appreciating.
See The xx at The Electric Factory
on October 29th.