So there we are, that was 2016. As we watch the annus sashay its horribilis out of the room, we must roll out the red carpet for 2017. I hope it has been treating you well thus far. Please, however, exercise some caution. In the words of public school super soldier James Blunt on Twitter recently – 'If you thought 2016 was bad – I'm releasing an album in 2017'. We shall look forward to hearing it, Captain. In the meantime, we are going to focus on I See You, the third studio album from London band The xx.
The band leaped onto the scene in 2009 with their self-titled debut album which went on to win The Mercury Prize. Follow-up album Coexist, whilst having its moments of transcendent beauty, failed too often to hit the immaculately-crafted sound of their first release. At times it felt a little elitist, like an idea taken too far past the point of accessibility thus breeding alienation. Since then, producer and band member Jamie xx (stage name alert) has gone on to release gorgeous solo album In Colour and work with everyone from Adele to Radiohead, arguably becoming bigger than the band with which he broke ground. However, 2017 sees them back together looking to churn out another album of disaffected youth gold (I won't use the word Emo, I just won't).
Thematically, I See You does not deviate far from the content of their first two albums. There are songs about partying, drinking, relationships and heartbreak – all set to a backdrop inspired by Jamie xx's famously diverse record collection. The only exception is Brave For You, a tender track on which Romy Madley Croft takes the lead and sings of her parents, both of whom died in a relatively short space of time prior to the band's success. It stands out through its honesty and is an agonising 'this is what you could have had' moment.
The interlacing of the voices of vocalists Romy and bass player Oliver Sim feels theatrical in nature with an obvious, intentional distance thrust between them. If they were in a movie, they would always be shown in split screen – saying the same thing but with no physical convergence. This is an ongoing theme of The xx which now feels more like their Achilles heel. What once seemed fresh and unique now feels old and overdone. I want a united front. I want two people working in synergy rather than two lost souls defying serendipity.
I feel the band are at a crossroads. Their talent is undeniable and precocious in such a good way. I just want a little bit more. Listening to The xx used to feel like getting a glimpse into every party that you were too old or uncool to ever be invited to. Writhing angst, deep beats, excruciating subtext, overarching melodies, heady silences. You only have to listen to the first thirty seconds of Crystalised from their debut album to know you are experiencing something unique. For me, this impact has been lost and has not been adequately replaced. If this is how the party shifts towards a conclusion, staying home with a glass of rosé and repeats of Bake Off is starting to look like an increasingly safe bet.
Then again, I might be wrong. I am a Musical Moron, after all...
Lyric Of The Week
“Should it fall down//You'll have been my favourite mistake”
The party's ending
No lasting regrets for my
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