Thursday, 19 January 2017

The xx - I See You review

One of the most influential 'Indie' acts of recent years and Wandsworth's finest export; The xx arguably revitalised and reshaped the pop landscape back in 2009, replacing clunky synths with spatial production, airy vocals and touches of piano, bass and guitars. Often dismissed as a bunch of pretentious 'hipsters', I've always seen potential in this trio that was yet to be realised...until now. I knew this record would be special upon hearing the lead single 'On Hold', which sparked an interest in the band that I hadn't felt since I heard 'Heart Skipped A Beat' nearly 8 (!) years ago. As I predicted, I See You is their strongest body of work to date and I couldn't be more delighted with it. 

The record kicks off with a bang in the form of 'Dangerous', the production of which incorporates the 'clubby' elements of Jamie's [excellent] solo material to full effect. Similarly, 'A Violent Noise' is a perfect merger of Jamie's grand instrumentals and the trio's signature sound, making it a new discography highlight. Some have described this album as the sound of The xx 'waking up', which as harsh as it may sound is fairly accurate. I mean, just listen to 'Lips'. 

I See You just has a sense of life and urgency to it that I always felt was lacking in the band's earlier material. A prime example of this 'life' can be found on 'Say Something Loving', which, like On Hold, features a prominent sample which is built upon with layered brittle guitar lines and the band's distinct dual-gendered coos. The assertion of this concept of something 'slipping away' complements the urgent pace of the production, which adds to the sense of cohesion that the band is famous for.

The xx are often credited as being a key influencer in the sounds of many pop acts that have emerged since 2009, meaning that they tend to get name checked whenever a record dabbles in 'skeletal' or 'spacey' pop music. Interestingly, this time around the tables have turned; the soft and breezy 'Replica' reminds be of Woman's Hour, who produced one of my favourite albums back in 2014, while 'Brave For You' recalls the majesty and elegance of dream pop pioneers Beach House, before a percussion-heavy instrumental breakdown channels Daughter at their most dramatic and captivating.

Even though it's often contrived and tiresome when music writers constantly refer to other acts when reviewing an artists' work, in this case it's justified. The xx have had such a profound impact on the pop landscape in my opinion, so seeing them branching out and experimenting with new palettes and sounds on their 3rd record is really exciting for me. I can only hope that they continue to both inspire and experiment in the future, and if that means Romi and Oliver solo records...I'm here for that too. I hope their 'pretentious' reputation doesn't deter you from delving into this glorious record, but if it does, that's your loss. 

Best tracks: Pretty much all of them, tbh.

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