xx (Digipack) CD
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Debut studio album by the English indie pop group. The album features the singles 'Crystalised', 'Basic Space', 'Islands' and 'VCR' and won the 2010 Mercury Prize.
The xx, like Burial’s William Bevan and Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden, studied at Elliott School in Putney, a pleasant south-west London suburb. But on the basis of this sleek debut this ice-cool quartet could surpass the achievements of their secondary school alumni.
Naming an album opener Intro prepares listeners for low expectations, so it's a great surprise when the track snakes in with a tightly coiled riff initially reminiscent of Casiokids' ace Fot I Hose. It doesn't turn into an immense house-echoing banger like the Norwegians’ tune, but when beats do arrive they're heavy enough for dubstep.
If Intro is a template for xx's simple, minimalist songs, VCR sets a precedent for winning vocal interplay between Romy Madley Croft and bassist Oliver Sim. With Jamie Smith's simple chiming production suggesting a nod to Brooklyn wonders Chairlift, Croft emotes breathily: “You used to have all the answers and you, you still have them, too.” Sim, meanwhile, sighs like a regretful Lou Reed.
A seemingly unlikely influence it may be, but amid the deep house beats of Island, the melody from Tom Petty's I Won't Back Down makes an appearance. Despite the incongruity, the motif evokes a sense of quiet triumph.
Fans of the midnight guitar in Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game will appreciate Infinity. While reverb-swollen chords drift by, Croft is hell-bent on mimicking Mazzy Star chanteuse Hope Sandoval in front of the microphone. And she succeeds beautifully.
Every song here is an enigmatic and moody blend of smoky crooning, nimble keyboard trickery and slippery treble-heavy riffs. Such self-awareness and focus is commendable given so few experienced bands, let alone newcomers, can manage it.
Yet xx’s consistency is also its sole undoing. The xx have perfected one formula but appear scared to develop any more, wary of branching into different tempos or styles. Fortunately this fault is not fatal – after all, many successful bands, from Oasis to AC/DC, have only ever had one killer idea.
Whether The xx plough on in the same noir direction of this debut or pursue new tangents, it must be hoped the Londoners are able to maintain their affecting hold on the listener whatever the stylistic surface. --Lou Thomas
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Top Customer Reviews
from school and have been playing nothing else over
the past week. They've dumped their hoodies (it was
red bandanas before that!) and reverted to basic black.
They also seem to be reading Schopenhauer again
- their Mother's influence not mine I hasten to add.
I seem to have found something to like in this music too.
The xx are a somewhat po-faced but very talented
little combo from South London. This debut collection
of 11 compositions is relentlessly and uncompromisingly
single-minded in its sustained intensity.
It's hard to imagine them sitting around together
drinking cider and watching Father Ted re-runs.
This is much more Jacques Brel and absinthe territory !
Seriousness becomes them.
The combined vocal contributions of Ms Croft and
Mr Sim create a charmingly laconic ambience.
There is a total absence of frenzy. In fact nothing
much happens throughout in the nicest possible way.
'Infinity' is a splendid composition. The closest
thing to a climax in the entire project.
The spirit of Hank Marvin might well be smiling in the wings.
'Night Time' is a marvelously morose little ditty
and for my money its starkly economical, pared-down,
minimalism is the album's gloomy highlight.
Jamie Smith's beats and Baria Qureshi's well-judged
keyboard interventions are entirely complementary to
the centrally positioned Croft/Sim double-act.
Concluding track 'Stars' made me remember acutely
what it was like to be young and intense and delirious
with dark and serious dreams.
I don't think every track on this album is great, but I do love most of them! There's a real intimate quality to the songs, reflective, thoughtful, and you can't help but slow down your breathing and drink it all in. Definitely something to put on at the end of a party, or a long day, feet up with a couple of friends, good conversation or something more :)
This time last year I was addicted to Burial's 'Untrue' and I can honestly say that if you enjoyed that record for its ability to make you lose yourself in its minimal and haunting sound, you'll love 'xx'. Interestingly, this young group met at the same London school which was attended by Hot Chip, Four Tet and Burial himself. The female and male vocalist harmonise and complement each other superbly on every track but, for me, stand outs are 'VCR', 'Basic Space' and the recent iTunes single of the week, 'Crystalised'. The smooth female vocals make me imagine a beautiful love child of Bjork and Zero 7's Sia Furler (you can decide whether you think that is a good combination or not!)The bassist creates a ghostly but melodic rhythm which features throughout which reminds me of Massive Attack's 'Danny The Dog'. What really impresses me is the way the group have maintained a constant and original sound without feeling the need to throw in a few tracks to change the mood. Some may dismiss this album as monotonous but the whole thing works for them and it flows as if it could be a film score much like Burial's 'Untrue'.
If you are looking for a refreshing change to the chart topping indie groups and wish to support genuine young British talent you should BUY this album. You will not be disappointed.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
BEEN 'WANTIN+AFTER' 4 YRS+'FINALLY' -as 'RECOMMENDED' THEN-But I HAVNT had 'CHANCE to 'Open NOR Play' YET !!!!Published 3 months ago by Daron
If this was just about the album, it would be a solid 5/5. Great music.
The package arrived one day in advance. Good. Read more
Fantastic album, bought as a Christmas present and they love it too.Published 6 months ago by Becks2810