In their self-titled debut album, The xx won over audiences with an impossibly delicate sound that tugged at something deep and forlorn in each of its fans. They took underground music hardwired with themes of melancholy and loneliness and raised it to bonafide chart topping status two years before Adele’s own billboard domination with 21 made us realize just what a depressed bunch of folks itunes listeners really are. It’s a road the young British threesome continues down on their second album, Coexist, which debuts next week but that you can stream below.
The major themes of isolation, relationships and heartbreak are executed perfectly through sparse arrangements and technical restraint. Just as on their debut, silence plays as important a role as sound… the minimal production gives space for the sweet delicate vocals of Madley-Croft and the rough croon of Oliver Sim. The surgical placement of each element delicately woven together evokes the fragile connection between humans explored in the album. Its as if one breath could blow the songs apart… like a relationship on the brink that we’re just barely hanging onto.
As stirring as the vocals are, and Madley and Oliver are without a doubt two of the most interesting vocal duos out there, I’m completely blown away by Jamie XX’s powerful and confident production. Eerie muted tropical samples and ambient padding with the occasional guitar line wind seductively through the album. Again its what’s left out that’s almost more important… Jamie reportedly begun the album working a with a bunch of producers including Diplo but eventually decided to helm the whole affair solo. For a work as intensely personal to the three as Coexist certainly is, its obviously this was the right move — The complicated interplay between the three is the thing that makes this album so powerful.
I’ll leave you guys with Madley’s words on the album and the title choice: “We are not a political band, so for us the title really doesn’t have anything to do with politics, or the state of the world,” Smith clarifies. “It’s much more about our relationships with each other as friends, and as a band. We’ve known each other for so long, but we’ve had to find ways to coexist that complement each other. It’s about relationships in a wider sense, too – the idea of sharing your life with someone, becoming a part of them. It’s also got a lot to do with the artwork – we got some concept artwork for the album which was produced by mixing oil and water, and we found a quote about that which said something like: ‘oil and water don’t mix, they coexist.’ That’s where the title comes from. We liked the artwork so much that we have based a lot of the art and videos from the album on these visuals.”
And as a bonus here’s our remix to Angels. You can download it for free here.