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xx

The xx

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Album Review

Debuts as fully formed and confident as the xx's self-titled first album are rare, but then, there is very little that is typical about this band or their music. Their influences are wide-ranging — traces of post-punk, dream pop, dubstep, indie pop, and R&B pop up at any given moment — but are focused into songs that are as simple as they are unique and mysterious. These tracks are so sleek, they're practically sculptural, and they boast impeccably groomed arrangements. The beats pulse rather than crash; the guitars are artfully picked and plucked; and the vocals rarely rise above a wistful sigh. This restraint and sophistication make the fact that the xx's members were barely in their twenties when they recorded the album all the more impressive; artists twice their age would be proud to call the maturity and confidence that flow seemingly effortlessly through the xx their own. Even their song titles are the perfect mix of concise and evocative: "Stars," "Shelter," "Night Time" (actually, all of their songs could be named this — they're that intimate and sleepily cool). The moody, monochromatic sound the xx sets forth on "Intro" is lovely enough, but it's how the band subtly shifts and tweaks it on each track that makes the album truly special. "VCR"'s innocent guitars hint at the band's fondness for Young Marble Giants' radically simple indie pop, while "Infinity" leans more heavily on their post-punk roots, and "Heart Skips a Beat" underscores its name with wittily fractured rhythms. And while singers Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim sound good on their solo turns (Sim particularly shines on the spacious "Fantasy"), together they're truly inspired — the aloof sensuality they generate makes romantic intrigue actually intriguing again. "Crystalised" might be one of the more intense songs here, but it still carries the confessional quality of a conversation between lovers, reaffirming what "heart-to-heart" really means. The standout "Basic Space" takes Croft and Sim's push-pull chemistry in an even more pop direction, but it's still awash in subtly fascinating details like its exotically rolling beat and Durutti Column-esque guitars. While the band's subtlety and consistency threaten to work against them at times, XX is still a remarkable debut that rewards repeated listens and leaves listeners wanting more.

Customer Reviews

Probably the best debut this year...

This debut is exceptional for a heap of reasons. First, it doesn't overstay its welcome- each track is short and sweet, in the best possible way. Second, it's beautifully sparse- each track is carefully constructed so as not to become an earful of noise. Third, it gets better on repeat listens. Fourth, although they both don't have traditionally spectacular voices, lead singer Romy Madley Croft and bassist Oliver Sim have voices that perfectly complement the music, and each other. Fifth, their sound is original. The result? A superb album.

The best album i've bought in years.

This album has stolen every minute in my car since i dowloaded it. Each track is so perfectly constructed and paced. I really recommend a listen to anyone that likes good music.

hmm, step back, smell the hype

An OK album, but this is seriously not the aural smorgasbord that some of the reviewers would have you believe (come on Gen Y, get critical). Very samey, little depth, it's a marketer's dream but not mine.

Biography

Formed: London, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Atmospheric English indie pop group the xx formed in London in 2008 around the talents of Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim, Baria Qureshi, and Jamie Smith, when the bandmembers were still in high school. Captivating and cool, the group cites influences that run the gamut from R&B (Aaliyah and Rihanna) to classic alternative rock (the Cure and the Pixies). Built around the duel vocals of Croft and Sim, the group's signature brand of moody, soulful indie rock first appeared on the public radar in...
Full Bio

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