Much has changed for The xx since their debut album xx in 2009. In their sophomore release Coexist, the English indie pop trio deliver their signature haunting yet warm subtleties, all while exploring new lands into the realms of dance music. This mixture of serene candor and hypnotic rhythms creates a vision of an endless party playing itself in slow motion, giving way for new life into the recognizable sound The xx has become known for.
With the spatial minimalism of producer Jamie xx’s percussions, the album launches a soundscape of beautiful conflict with their eerily soothing ambience and pulsating beats. With every instrument resonating amongst the comforting silence felt, the hushed vocals of lead singers Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft act as intertwining narrators, whispering lyrics of heartache and disillusionment.
While escaping the pop catchiness that made their predecessor so popular, the album compensates this absence with a sense of growth and maturity in their musical craftsmanship, as heard in the lead single, “Angels.” Rather than an assortment of infectious melodies, tracks such as “Sunset” and “Reunion” provide us signs of progression through the heavy use of heartbroken lyricism and ethereal harmonies.
If their debut captured the innocent naivety behind teenage romance, Coexist acted as the sorrowful sequel. In the mesmerizing yet off-kilter club-inspired single “Chained,” Sim and Croft paint the portrait of love lost with interchanging lines such as “Separate or combine, I ask you one last time: Did I hold you too tight? Did I not let enough light in?” The twist and turns between both vocalists seem to reflect the nature of their content, illustrating the melancholy that comes with a shattered heart. The exchanges act as a call and response until the simultaneous climactic confession: “We used to be closer than this.” As distant as they may be, the words hit closer to home than ever, ringing the tune of nostalgia with a faint whisper.
Though their development into the rhythms of club music is present, The xx manages to retain the simple beauty that originally made their music so appealing. If simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, as Leonardo da Vinci once said, then The xx must have definitely taken note.
The xx – “Chained”[audio: https://www.box.com/shared/static/jg9l1hpyt4ztgaf15pmh.mp3]