The xx – Coexist

by Shea Geyer (Pharmacy), published September 17th 2012

Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!

Not many artists can successfully pull off the minimalism that The xx presents in their music.  Their debut album, xx, reached critical acclaim back in 2009 with the popular songs ”Intro,” “Crystalised” and “Islands.”  Having pretty much disappeared from the music scene for the past two years (with the notable exception of Jamie xx’s successful solo career), The xx have finally returned with the highly anticipated follow-up to xxCoexist is the nighttime to xx, with subtle beats that are constantly on the verge of dropping into chaos.

The first single, “Angels,” is just shy of three minutes in length, but it is a beautifully layered lullaby dominated by Romy Madley-Croft’s angelic vocals.  The crescendoing rolls of the snare drum, the thumping of a heartbeat imitated by the bass drum, and the gentle guitar melody create a heavenly background that compliments Croft perfectly.  At first listen, “Angels” is a drastic departure from the upbeat sound found on xx, like “Intro.”   The intricate beats that had dominated the songs throughout xx have been, for the most part, placed on the backburner on Coexist to allow for the vocals to take a primary focus.

“Chained” is the first song on the album that features the typical vocal duet of Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim.  The song starts off with a cymbal roll before layering into a faster tempo that levels off to a constant background drum beat.  The beat cuts out as Madley-Croft begins “We used to be closer than this/We used to be closer than this/We used to get closer than this/Is it something you miss” and picks up again for the remainder of the song, with a brief crescendo that stops just short of reaching the climax.  Almost as soon as “Chained” started, it ends abruptly and leaves you hanging, waiting for the song to continue.  The beat never comes back though, nor does another drawn out ”ooh,” which would have ended the song in a better manner.

Nestled back-to-back in the middle of Coexist are the two best songs on the album.  “Reunion” and “Sunset” should be the “Crystalised” and “Islands” of Coexist, with equal sharing of the spotlight between the instrumentation and the vocals, and variation in the tempo of the songs.  “Reunion” pulsates right into ”Sunset,” uniting the songs into a continuous story about former lovers.  The call-and-response between Madley-Croft and Sim adds depth to the lyrics, which are further elaborated upon with the construction and deconstuction of varying beats.

As a whole, Coexist is a well-crafted work of art that follows the same formula that The xx used on their debut: do more with less.  Although The xx had to let go of keyboardist/guitarist Baria Qureshi, which probably contributed to the darker sound of Coexist, The xx have remained true to creating aesthetically pleasing music.

Recommended tracks: Angels, Reunion, Swept Away

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