Genre: Electronica/Dream Pop
Producer: Jamie xx, Rodaidh McDonald
Release Date: January 13, 2017
The xx is an English indie pop band known for their minimalistic, stripped-down dream pop sound. Their self-titled debut album was a surprise sleeper hit, released to small fanfare but eventually netting them a Mercury Prize and considerable sums of money after the album’s intro track was sampled by Rihanna, as well as used in about a hundred commercials, movies, TV shows, and sports events.
The sophomore record, 2012’s Coexist, took “less is more” a bit too far and became so minimalistic and stripped-down that it made most metronomes sound catchy. After the less enthusiastic response to their sophomore album, the band took a brief hiatus, during which producer Jamie xx’s went on to pursue a solo career. His 2015 solo debut In Colour was showered with praise, and paved way for the new sound The xx would eventually steer towards with its more energetic beats, lush keyboards and weird samples. Now, on their third full-length album, I See You, the band shifts to a new gear.
Borrowing from the sound set by Jamie xx’s solo effort, I See You features much more inventive and wild soundscapes, though in The xx’s case “wild” is on the level with a salaryman who every day goes to work in a suit and an azure tie, and one day decides to go wild and wear a teal tie instead. The album opener “Dangerous” features a very Disclosure-esque house beat, while the lead single “On Hold” contains pitch-shifted Hall & Oates sample of “I Can’t Go For That”. “Brave For You” spices up its beat with almost tribal-influenced drums.
The new elements, the house beats, the samples and the experimental synth bleeps, are all used in a restrained manner typical to The xx. This makes the shift sound like natural evolution and doesn’t interfere with the music’s emotional core; despite their small and restrained style of performance the band has always been capable of conveying massive emotions, the musical equivalent of maintaining a straight face while inside you’re on verge of tears. This quiet, toned-down melancholy is still the greatest strength of the band.
After almost five years of absence, The xx returns better than ever. I See You is brighter and more lively than any The xx album before it. Of course, saying that of The xx is like saying the coma patient is more lively today now that he once twitched his fingers, but that too is progress to the right direction.