Sunday, 16 December 2012

Albums of the Year 2012 - #5 The XX - Coexist

The XX’s debut self-titled record was our no.2 album of 2009 and so expectation was very high for Coexist, their second release.  Like its predecessor Coexist doesn’t exactly smack you in the face. In fact there’s a big danger with this record of giving it a couple of listens, deciding it’s just more of the same and moving on. Yet whilst there’s no doubt that Coexist is more a consolidation than a leap into unknown territories, that doesn’t mean to say it isn’t worthwhile spending a lot of time with it. If anything the production is even more graceful in its beauty, the songs more soulful, and like any really worthwhile album it slowly unfurls itself like a flower in spring to reveal its wonders.

Highlights include the breath-taking Angels the first track on the record. A simple love song, here The XX strip away everything except Romy’s plaintive vocal, chiming guitars and add just the most minimal beats. It’s the sort of tune that must surely have been designed for intimate rooms and spaces yet when the band bravely opened their only UK festival dateof the year at Bestival in front of thousands of people it took on a new life. There’s something always incredibly powerful about a field full of people singing the lyrics alongside the band and as thousands sang “they would be as in love with you as I am,” even the hardest soul would have felt a little tingle down his or her spine. Other highlights include Reunion which evokes long desolate journeys at night with its subtly driving musical soundscape of electronics, Burial like beats and steel drums that slowly morph themselves into something more danceable. Missing, the absolute standout track sounds as dark as the bottom of a well shaft but is carried by Oliver Sim’s unique quietly restrained voice. “Tell me how did this come to be?” he pleads. It really is exceptional.

Coexist sounds like an album where everything has been painstakingly put in exactly the right place, with nothing more than is required, but nothing less either. It’s this attention to perfecting the detail that enables Coexist to ultimately be a quiet triumph.

The XX - Angels

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