Album Reviews Music

Musical Advent Calendar #6 The XX – I See You

I See You, is the third album produced by The XX, made up of 10 songs, and is certainly their most accomplished album yet. Whilst the band retain their usual charming vulnerability and at times shyness, their sound is richer, more atmospheric and uplifting than their previous albums. The name of this album then corresponds to the bands own ability to ‘See’ themselves for what they are capable of. They seem to have learnt how to incorporate and balance each band members sound, especially drawing upon the influence of DJ Jamie XX as he creates a cacophony of various electronic sounds.

The album opens with a sound unlike anything heard from The XX before, with a blast of horns in their first song ‘Dangerous’. This is accompanied by a groovy back drop of bass and the steady beat associated with house music, adding bite and assertion to the XX’s usual sound. The vocals of Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim confidently intertwine: ‘Cause I couldn’t care less, If they call us reckless, until they are breathless, they must be blind’. But it is perhaps the build-up of shuffling rhythms and quirky sounds produced by Jamie XX which really make this song a success.

Next ‘Say Something Loving’ will transcend you into absolute euphoria. Reverberations of distorted sounds on guitar and keyboard create a cacophony of ecstatic sound. This is set off by the emotional lyrics: ‘You say something loving, it’s so overwhelming, the thrill of affection, feels so unfamiliar’.

‘Performance’ is much more reminiscent of The XX’s classic songs. It is more stripped back, focusing on the naked emotion of Romy’s vocals. She sings about masking her vulnerability: ‘I’ll put on a performance, I’ll put on a show, it is a performance, I do it all so, you won’t see my hurting, when my heart it breaks’ which is aptly accompanied with the echo of sparse violin strings and guitar to let Romy’s voice shine through. This eases into the soothing melodies of ‘Replica’ created by the reverberation of staccato guitar, the blending of steel drums and the backing of Romy’s angelic harmonies. A remedy of sounds that alleviate the otherwise hard-hitting lyrics which refer to Oliver’s problems with drink and substance abuse as he sings: ‘they all say I’ll become a replica, your mistakes were only chemical’.

‘On Hold’ enters with brighter sounds, building into a crescendo of fast beats and the scratching of background vocals, reminiscent of the sounds created in Jamie XX’s most recent album ‘In Colour’. This leads into a calmer but still energised song: ‘I Dare You’. The driving beat enlivens its otherwise simplicity and the electronic rhythms build into a spectral, unsettling climax befitting the lyrics: ‘Wake up high on it, feeling suspended, I’m enamoured, way up in the sky I can see that you want to’.

The XX have refreshed their trademark sound, ensuring that it remains intimate but less awkward and more expansive. The creative license of Jamie XX has clearly been at work to move the band to the next level as his fresh electronic sounds turn their songs into colourful symphonies.

Favourite Songs: Say Something Loving, Replica, On Hold

 

Lauren Daly

 

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