Articles tagged with The xx

The xx – “Chained”

The xx
I reviewed the xx‘s recent Vancouver show for the Georgia Straight. I wasn’t sure how the band’s ultra-sparse arrangements would translate on stage, but the performance was surprisingly energized.

Below is the video for “Chained.” The chorus lyric, “We used to be closer than this,” is perhaps the most devastating line on the recently released Coexist.

Go to Exclaim! to read more about it.

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The stillness is a burn

the xx - xx
If you’re looking for arena-sized bombast and cathartic rock ‘n’ roll fireworks, the xx probably isn’t the band for you. The group’s debut album, xx, never rises above a slow simmer, its eleven tracks made up of slow tempos and sparse arrangements. It’s all buildup and no payoff, lacking an obvious hit and scarcely even containing any memorable hooks

What the album does have, however, is atmosphere. The chiming guitars are soaked in cavernous reverb, tracing minor key melodies against a haunting backdrop of keyboard swirls and sparse electro beats. The arrangements rarely feature anything other than what can be easily replicated live, meaning that negative space factors heavily in nearly every song.

With so little to distract the ear, the focus falls upon singers Oliver Sam and Romy Madley Croft, whose erotically-charged boy-girl duets carry the album. Their chemistry is smoldering, and their sultry, R&B-infused crooning means that even the most oblique come-ons sound downright pornographic. Their vocal lines overlap on the breakup lament “Heart Skipped a Beat,” the refrain of “Sometimes I still need you” sounding poignant and sensual in equal measures. The echo-laced “Infinity” is similarly heart-wrenching, Sam’s complaint that “the stillness is a burn” acting as a mission statement for the band’s less-is-more approach.

The mood lifts slightly on the single “Basic Space,” but even this song would be a ballad by most bands’ standards, its verses containing little accompaniment other than a strangely clicking beat. It’s this restraint that makes the xx so refreshing, and the band’s “next big thing” status such a welcome surprise.

The group shot a fittingly minimalist video for “Basic Space,” featuring lots of back-lit closeups and woozy lens effects. Check it out below.

xx is out now via Young Turks.
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