It’s important to mention that The xx‘s last album, Coexist, came out 4 years ago. In the modern era, that’s a long time to wait for an album to drop. So when the band gave us a heads up as to what this new project, I See You, was going to be about when they tweeted this :
….You should’ve known it was going to be something special.
The 3rd album from the London three-piece band maintains the raw and alternative aesthetic of their previous 2 projects, but builds on them fantastically, adding more pop and vocal elements than before. Major shout out to band member Jamie xx for his sleek production (which we all know about from his 2015 solo project In Colour) and to Rodaidh McDonald who’s worked with a number of talented UK artists. It’s obvious that The xx were seeking all the fruits they could while creating this body of work, and that is reflected throughout.
The opening track ‘Dangerous’, kicks the album off with some triumphant horns and a catchy beat accompanied with some great lead vocals. A great opener to a sonically varied album. ‘I Dare You’ definitely follows this vibe with an equally addictive percussion loop in the background, showing the stripped-back nature of the band’s talents.
One of the best things about this album is the use of sampling. Hall and Oates are sampled in the song ‘On Hold’ which is easily one of the best tracks on the project. The dreamy hook mixed with the textbook Jamie xx ear for sampling makes for a track so different to the band’s original sounds.
Aside from the brighter, simpler songs, there are some tracks which follow suit of the group’s older cuts. ‘Brave For You’ – a song about Romy Madley Croft‘s parents who passed away – is sung with a gentle yet intense vibe. As is ‘Performance’ which features some dark string sections and sounds incredible.
‘Lips’ is another standout track. The haunting vocals at the beginning and the eery production line at 2:04 (undoubtedly the work of Jamie xx) adds layers to a song that is simply about kissing someone. ‘Say Something Loving’ is another superb track; the raw appeal of the vocal composition and the mixture of murky beats throughout makes for an insanely intriguing 2nd track.
One notable difference between this album and The xx‘s last two releases is the vocal progression of both Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim. Whilst neither possess a stunning range, they make the absolute best of their innate abilities to portray emotion in their voices, as well as use their vocal chords as another instrument to blend in with the spiral of sounds The xx have given to us on I See You.
Closing out the album is the beautiful ‘Test Me’. The remarkable thing about this finale is that there’s only one verse and one chorus. But, they join together to give the song gravity and a crazy instrumental outro which already has me begging for more of their music. That’s the beauty of The xx – we’ve had this album for such a short amount of time and here I am already wondering how their next project will sound.
I See You gets a solid 8/10 from me, and is quite possibly The xx‘s most impressive body of work yet. They really tried to fuse together a brand of music which contained a mixture of alternative and indie vibes, but clearly spent some time working on how to lighten the mood as well. Fresh off his solo project, Jamie xx was raring to go and his constant treasure hunt for more inspiration and new ways to innovate has, and will, constantly work in the band’s favour.
Personal favourites : Dangerous, Say Something Loving, Lips, On Hold
Least favourites : A Violent Noise
Review by GK; Follow him on Twitter @gk_ennedy