In 2009, The xx’s self-titled debut album was released and found its way on to many “year’s best” lists. It was my favorite album of the year, so you can bet I was eagerly anticipating what would come next from the trio of Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim, and Jamie Smith (aka Jamie xx). With the band releasing their latest, Coexist, for a listen on their website last week, and the physical form next week, we now know.
I once read The xx’s style referred to as “indierotica.” I had never heard this term before, but it does seem fitting since I am sure their debut has been played in many a bedroom, motel room, and dorm room with purpose. It was beautiful in its simplicity. While it was excellent, their follow-up would need to show more though. The xx couldn’t be a one-trick pony and make the same album again regardless of how good their first was. It seemed that if these changes were to happen, they would likely need to come from heavier involvement from Jamie xx. His involvement in other projects, as well as his solo album (w/ the late Gil-Scott Heron), We’re New Here, showed that he had more talent than many likely realized, so he would likely need to add more dimension this time around.
The first song to be released from the album was opener “Angels,” which is a very good song, but certainly led fans to pretty much expect more of the same. On the opposite side of the spectrum would be “Missing,” which is certainly the most adventurous of 11 new tracks, but it is still not too far a leap for the band. To some extent Jamie’s contributions on Coexist are more evident than on its predecessor, but I think I expected a bit more. However, I will certainly say that having listened to the album 5-6 times now you start to hear more and more going on in the background. You still get the same great guitar, bass, and alternating vocals from Croft and Sim, but you start to hear Jamie’s presence increasingly with each listen.
It’s still hard for me to say that Coexist is as good as xx is, but I will certainly say that my appreciation of it has grown with each listen. For fans of this first album I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t also like the latest as well. The only complaint would really be that it is more of the same, and formulaically it is for the most part. Still, this is a band that is great for their simplicity and smoothness, and their growth on Coexist fits their nature. It’s more evident on certain songs over others, but there are more layers, beats, and effects. And again, these additions at times are very simple, but they often make the song that much better. So Coexist may not be as good as The xx’s debut, but it gets better with each listen… so maybe in time you may find that it is better.
Key Tracks: Angels, Try, Missing
Kevin Kozel - Sr. MuzikReviews.com Staff
September 7, 2012