ARTIST: The xx
ALBUM: I See You
RELEASE DATE: 13 January 2017
LABEL: Young Turks
GENRE: Dream Pop
This is the third full-length album from London indie pop band, the xx. One of the biggest acts to come out of the UK in the past ten years, the xx broke out in 2009 with their debut album, xx, which exuded a very minimal-style indietronica and UK bass sound. Their sophomore album, Coexist, combined that sound with a bit more of an atmospheric vibe.
SO HOW WAS THIS ALBUM?
Okay… the singing of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim is still not very good. Just listen to “Say Something Loving” [Track 2].
However, this is easily the most musically engaging album that the xx has produced to date. Unlike the minimal-style tracks of their first two albums, I See You has more lively and exciting instrumentals.
For instance, the album’s lead single “On Hold” [Track 8] takes a sample from Daryl Hall & John Oates’ 1981 song “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” and combines that with these funky rhythms and strangely enjoyable static noise. The following track, “I Dare You” [Track 9], also has an intriguing marching-type beat and the guitars match Sim’s vocal delivery very well. Unfortunately, the chorus of “I Dare You” (Singing oh-oh-oh // Go on, I dare you) brought back painful memories of the overplayed Kings of Leon song “Use Somebody.”
I See You is also The xx’s most dramatic and diverse album to date, once again thanks in part to some climactic instrumentals on songs such as “Performance” [Track 5]. The melancholy string sections emphasizes the pathos of the track while elevating the baseline and echoey guitars.
Unfortunately, multiple tracks on this album contain abrupt, fizzled-out endings (i.e. “A Violent Noise” [Track 4]. “Replica” [Track 6] and “Brave For You” [Track 7]), which made for some awkward transitions.
Another intriguing aspect of I See You is the lyrical content. While there are still tracks centered around love and heartbreak, there are some subtle references to anxiety and the challenges of staying true to yourself in tough emotional situations.
On “Performance”, Madley Croft sings, “If I scream at the top of my lungs // will you hear what I don’t say?” Essentially, she is telling her lover that WHAT she is screaming is not as important as WHY she is screaming. She’s afraid to admit that she is lonely and miserable, suggesting some potential underlying anxiety and self-esteem issues. This made for a very nice change of pace on this album and for the band.
Despite its weak points in terms of vocals and composition, I See You is a decent album. The xx have definitely matured over the years and took some risks instrumentally that worked out very well.
Performance, On Hold, I Dare You
NOTE: This is my first-ever music review, so feedback on this would definitely be appreciated. Let me know what you think in the comment section or send me a tweet @danny_shin131