Three years after the release of ‘Coexist’, the xx return with their third album ‘I See You’, which succeeds in further evolving their already covetable sound.
Known for the wispy and downplayed vocals of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim, along with haunting melancholic riffs, the xx have always had a distinctively reserved and hollow feel to their sound. ‘I See You’, however, manages to expand on this sound without sacrificing the bands musical identity. These songs are somehow just what you expect from the xx… yet nothing like anything we’ve heard from them before.
Their introverted and unassuming music had been given a boost of energy, the use of samples and house-style beats adding more depth and giving a fuller sound along with a hint of modernity, yet still keeping hold of their alternative and moody essence – a perfect blend of originality and the mainstream.
This evolution is not surprising, considering Jamie Smith’s solo success as DJ and producer before the Trio’s return to the music scene. Loud horn sampling in ‘Dangerous’ and house vibes evident in ‘A Violent Noise’ suggest Smith added his own flairs into the mix of emotional lyrics and unsettling melodies the band is famously well versed in. His influence and noticeable tweaks to the music’s composition gives their introverted style a new edge, and builds on the band’s already well established alternative image.
After such success with their award winning self titled first album, ‘Coexist’ seemed an extension of their debut, rather than a stand alone work of its own. The change of pace in ‘I See You’ brings back excitement to their music, and in turn takes away the insular feel to the band’s repertoire.
A rather impressive feat, the bands musical reform does not inhibit the power of the music’s message or depth. The album still features emotional and honest ballads, featuring Croft’s enviably evocative riffs and raw lyrics such as those on show in ‘performance’. They manage to draw on pop features of today, without creative vapid and meaningless tracks.
The xx have definitely come back with a contemporary, well executed bang.