Much hyped London foursome, The XX, released their self titled debut album on August 16 through Rough Trade records. The band is made up of four 19 year old friends from the famous London based Elliott School, whose alumni includes Four Tet, Burial and part of Hot Chip. It must be something they serve in the dinners, as here lies yet another brilliant musical group to come from the establishment.
At just 11 tracks and clocking in just under 40 minutes, the LP does seem to pass a bit too quickly. However, after repeated listens it becomes obvious that the band used these songs as they fit together with such adhesion that it’s hard to imagine anything different.
Lyrically this album is impressive for such inexperienced song writers; however it seems that these young songwriters find it hard to avoid speaking on feelings of relationship and sex. Their self awareness and subtleness on the subject is to be respected as verses like, “I can’t give in/ to someone else’s touch/ because I care so much,” show these young lyricists know their way around a deep relationship. The male and female vocalists, Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim, seem to find it hard not to release any verse without it sounding like a come-on or heartfelt apology. Though don’t get me wrong, I am not claiming this is a weakness. The way in which the pair read off each other recalls ‘Funeral’ era Arcade Fire.
Musically, this album is certainly a grower. Initially it seems too minimal – ‘not enough substance.’ But as your ears adjust, the long gestated bass tones, metallic drum machine beats and xylophone melodies make you realise that you have certainly been rewarded for the time consumed.
The stand out track of the album is “Shelter,” with minimal beats and echoing vocals juxtaposed with a crashing high-hat that really lingers in your memory. Also, this is The XX at their lyrical best and seemingly most personal. Verses such as, “I want to drown, whenever you leave,” are fantastic metaphors for a missing lover and could have easily been written by Turner, Morrisey or Yorke.
The first single “Basic Space” is one of the least commercially sounding tracks, and initially does appear to be an odd choice to use as a calling card. However, despite the subtle guitar lines and spacey vocals, it is hard not to feel like you’ve heard this track before. For further listening pleasure find the Pariah remix of the track, where extra layers are created through dubstep beats that really manage to improve the track.
The XX do appear to be an odd band to have been given so much press. Their claustrophobic music does appear to be the type of music that a part-time music enthusiast would ignore, though they really have set the blogosphere alight. In conclusion, The XX have released an album of true quality and have definitely served to prove the hype. ~ Andy Hill
MP3: The XX – Shelter
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