Album Review: The XX – Coexist

by James Sloan
The cover art for The XX's second album 'Coexist'

The cover art for The XX’s second album ‘Coexist’

Upon hearing just the opening notes of this album for the first time, fans of The XX can let out a huge sigh of relief. For the group’s slightly melancholic and mystical sound has not been lost since their self-titled Mercury Prize winning debut LP.
The band have lost a member since their 2009 release though. Guitarist and Keyboard player Baria Qureshi left the group just over three years ago now, leaving a line-up consisting of: Oliver Sim (bass and vocals), Romy Madley-Croft (guitar and vocals) and Jamie Smith (sampler).
Similar themes are still evident here on ‘Coexist’ – a record that largely covers the considerations and reflections of those in a relationship. Lyrics such as “being as in love with you as I am” and “we used to get closer than this, is it something you miss?” seem commonplace on an XX track.
After being soothed into sedation by the sweet sound of Madley-Croft’s voice on opening track ‘Angels’, it isn’t until the second song that the audience is once again exposed and treated to the fragile intimacy of both lead singers.
‘Chained’ is a great duet, with the male and female whispers of The XX shrouding their music in a fog that serves to produce an addictive sound that makes you want to keep returning as you try to discover just what it is that makes their sound so unique.
On ‘Reunion’, Smith really steps to the front of the group, leading the intro of the song with a Reggae-like steel drum rhythm that’s tempo increases, leaving you to think that if it were really played, a drummer would need more than two hands.
The first nine tracks all have single-worded titles, which is testament to The XX’s uncomplicated musical approach. ‘Tides’ begins with just vocals for the opening 15 seconds prior to the beginning of a stuttering drum beat which is soon followed by a catchy guitar riff courtesy of Madley-Croft.
Having known each other since the age of two, there is evident chemistry between Romy and Ollie and the combination of their voices is one of the most unique aspects of the group. Meanwhile ‘Jamie XX’ often provides soft synthetic drum beats that underlay the calming voices.
Perhaps it is the fact that they have grown-up together that makes these lifelong friends have a seemingly telepathic connection. Their harmonising on ‘Swept Away’ is seamless and backed up by a bassy nightclub beat by Smith.
Perhaps this type of song is where future XX albums will head? The group do have R&B and Hip-Hop interests that may seep into their work in the years to come.
The London band have produced art that can be appreciated with ease. It takes little effort to sit down and inhale 37 minutes of music that is both relaxing and also reassuring to know that it comes from a band barely into their twenties. Hopefully they can make it a hat-trick of brilliant albums with their next release.
1. Angels
2. Chained
3. Fiction
4. Try
5. Reunion
6. Sunset
7. Missing
8. Tides
9. Unfold
10. Swept Away
11. Our Song
Released: 10 September 2012
Label: Young Turks/XL
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