The xx - Coexist
Sticking with the winning formula of their Mercury prize winning 2009 album XX, London based trio The xx return with sophomore album Coexist. With elements of their debut having been featured on seemingly half of all adverts over the past three years, and with samples being used by everyone from Rihanna to Mike Posner, you’d be forgiven for thinking The xx would take their minimalistic sound to the next level. In reality, listen to the albums back-to-back and you might struggle to pinpoint where one ends and the next begins.
Laden with subtle two-step beats and set against their trademark alternating male/female vocals, it would be unfair to overlook their ability to write a catchy (if slow paced) hook. The production is slick and the understated atmosphere which The xx have made their own is still present. One slight difference, particularly noticeable on ‘Chained’, is the influence club music has had on their sound. Obviously they avoid using a massive drop or pounding bass beat, instead taking the skeleton of a club beat to form a subtle backbone, whilst the duo of vocalists echo "we used to be closer than this". Lyrically the love theme could get repetitive, but the focus is primarily on tone of the vocals rather than their content, as well as being foreshadowed by the delicate beats and eerie melodies.
The extent of The xx making any progress with their sound seems to rest solely on some light, haunting steel drums during ‘Reunion’. The slight Caribbean lilt to the track lifts it from the swirling abyss of minimal pop tracks which surround it, suggesting The xx are definitely capable of progression. Equally, the whirling electronica intro of ‘Try’ ups the tempo ever so slightly and adds a layer of sound which is noticeably different. First single ‘Angels’ features rolling percussion, with the occasional accentuated snare highlighting the silences either side of Romy Madley Croft’s seductive crooning. It's these slight twists in the formula which provoke most interest.
Coexist should sell well, riding on the crest of the last album's ubiquity. The overbearing feeling of déja vu does, however, make you wish there was more distance between the two.