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Album Review: The xx – Coexist

Three years ago, they made their remarkable debut with an eponymous album. It had been a long time since they had played us something new, indeed, but finally, The XX are back with their new album “Coexist“.

My expectations of this album are ambient. After hearing a few tunes I realised it would be great/as emotional as the previous, but may leave me wanting more. Will there be any progression from the last album? As good as it was, in a fast moving age they should have had some minor inspiration the last three years.

In my honest opinion, I’ve been hungry for more Jamie xx, but I am genuinely excited to hear what this band come up with. Some of my later youth was spent wallowing to their music and if they could fuel my mid-twenties angst maybe I would again be satisfied.

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‘Angels’ is beautiful, rolling, quiet, distant and catchy. Such a great empty/vast aesthetic, hopeful teary eyed vocals over an instrumental originally created for ‘nothing compares to you’. Its great actually- it gets the album rolling. It convinces you that the xx are the band you know and love, and will offer you more of what you need.

The next tune ‘Chained’ is my favourite of the tunes. It absolutely bangs, why? Because of Jamie xx’s driving and ingenuitive drum beat. The bass-line and subtle synths also create a great feel, a true testament to the XXs minimalism. The song for instance contains only one guitar riff, a great rising piece. Chained is stripped down and beautiful even for them.

‘Friction’ however breaks the mould in a way. There is less hope now. A looped guitar desperately tries to cut through the ambience. Drums reminiscent of she wants revenge slowly claw away at the optimistic guitar. a dark pitch shifting piano/synth combo come in along with some eighties punch bass. You begin to realise this song won’t rise to the majors like the old songs did and simply rolls along in a distinctly melancholic way. This song is great, but on a bad day would drag you down.

The start of’ ‘try’ is cool, reminds me of AlunaGeorge or something. There’s something about portamento on synths that makes them hilarious. However the great piano and vocals cancels out the lols and leads into quite a beautiful song. With one solitary rim hit reverb per bar it becomes a slow sensual number. The guitar on this is the most quintessentially XX thing I’ve ever heard.

With hints of Jamie xx’s earlier solo steel drum career, ‘Reunion’ seems an absolutely standard affair from the outset. I don’t like the lyrics really, although the guitar chords are nice. It has no spark no vibe just lots of reverb. The only relief comes in with some punchy bass. As previously mentioned there is more of an eighties vibe on a few of these songs. As before the Jamie xx influence is my favourite part with even more fantastic drums.

‘Sunset’ is dancier, it’s getting my foot tapping. The bass is cool and the drums are rad. The vocal is great too, effortless lyrics and a clear concept throughout the band.  The guitar could be out of an early 2000s club hit, yeah I really like this one. It has more energy than the others and seems to be aspiring to more.

Wow ‘missing’ is cool; those drums create an unsettling vibe. The song only gets more atmospheric as it progresses. Dark rolling synth, distant guitar and strange arp bass create a great aesthetic. An aesthetic with hints of portishead, radiohead or some other head. A revert back to the initial vocal shows just how dense the previous atmosphere was. My favourite thus far.

‘Tides’ starts with an acapella, its kinda cool. The drum beat is weird as well, this album is starting to pick up steam with a seriously dark vibe. That is until the happiest arp ever comes in and some pretty standard drums. Despite that there is still some pretty ambient and hallowing synth in the background. At some point I get the feeling there is less rapport within the band. It feels as if Jamie wants to come to the foreground. This song is crap to be honest, it had a lot of potential but I don’t know. It seemed confused.

‘Unfold’ seems rad, again with the slow sultry feel, Again with a distinctly xx vibe. Nice guitar in this song though, it could be a David Grey song. The bass is rad too, Long notes combined with hat rolls builds a nice moment. Some timpani low kicks give the song a pulsating orchestral flow. Don’t know if I like the delay on them though. The lyrics are great and as reaching, trendy and traumatic as we have come to expect from the xx.
With a nice vocal at the start and expectations of more filler the tenth song rolls on. ‘Swept away’ has a total eclipse of the heart feel to it. rising vocals and piano sculpting an nineties diva motif .Soon after a bass-line and drum combo comes in that seems to be fully ridiculous. But then, what the fuck. An epic kick drum starts booming. A catchy guitar line. Is there life left yet? Almost completely out of the realms of the XX a club ready dance number chimes in. this is great. Once again I feel compelled to move and believe that this band are capable of more.

The album ends on a ballad, ‘Our Song’ seems like a last song should. An end. Obvious, sentimental, contrived but maybe exactly what you wanted. The synths are great, the bass is kinda cool, the guitars are lifting. The song/album then end on some lingering fuzz.

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Okay, so it was good. The best moments in my honest opinion were the parts where Jaime xx had more input into song construction. I’m not saying that the beautiful, rolling, classic xx numbers weren’t excellent, I’m just saying that they didn’t need another album of them. The days of artists churning out album after album of the same sound may be a thing of the past. With less money in music it may just look like you are squeezing the final quart form your cash cow. In a genre where everything is developing at full speed, they could potentially get left behind. This is not to say I wasn’t moved or entertained, my focus with music has always been progression. Let’s face it, no change means no surprise, and just maybe a shot at really liking something. Liking something just as much as you did the first time, the exact same amount in fact. I would really like to know your thoughts on this and honest thoughts, was it better or worse?

‘Friction’, ‘Sunset’ and ‘Swept Away’ are my favorites, I’m sure you will all think differently. I guess I came into this wanting something more and I will probably have missed out.

Available September 10th on Young Turks. Pre-order through iTunes .

About the author: FREnchfire

FREnchfire

I am a bass producer from the UK who also writes and performs.

 

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