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The xx

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Released: Aug 18 2009

Label: Young Turks

Genre: Pop/Soul/New Wave

Rating: 4.5/5

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When bands push to create atmospheric and melancholy records, the outcome varies from being monotonous and unprogressive; to on occasions becoming an audible adventure of deep indulgence; fortunately, this album is swayed towards the latter.

The opening track, ‘Intro’, prepares the listener for a basic, generic, beginning. In contrast to this prejudgement, Jamie Smith’s productions skills are showcased through choppy samples overlaying spiralling riffs and multi-octave backing vocals from male-female vocal fronting duo Romy Madly Croft and Oliver Sim.

‘VCR’ opens with a slow-paced keyboard and a sluggish guitar riff, building up to Croft’s fatigued vocals adding to the very melancholy atmosphere of the track, and record as a whole. The opening of ‘Crystalised’ offers somewhat more sophistication, through the synth opening and more forward guitar riff. The track’s opening verse consists merely of the duo’s vocals and a deep bass line, almost heavy enough for dubstep, before building up to a powerful riff and rhythmic drumming.

The mood of ‘Islands’ is considerably more up-beat in comparison to the majority of tracks, unlike most , drumming is consistent throughout the track, leading to the chorus, “I am yours now, so I don’t ever have to leave”. ‘Islands’ brings a great finale of drumming and almost cheerful synth’s and keyboards, before cutting off dramatically and leading on to ‘Heart Skipped a Beat’. Despite ‘Islands’ differentiation in mood, it stands out as one of the stronger tracks on the album.

The bass and mystical vocals displayed in ‘Fantasy’ works brilliantly in creating an eerie atmosphere, yet a somewhat comforting one; a song that many could reflect to. The distinctiveness of the band are really displayed through this short track, this is what The xx are all about.

‘Shelter’ focuses on the female side of the vocals, with a calm bass riff and delayed vocals. ‘Basic Space’ is one of the more prominent tracks on the album, highlighting the vocal duo’s workability; with the extravagant guitar riff taking the spotlight towards the end of the track.

The closing stages of the album bring the positive sounding instrumentals of ‘Night Time’, seemingly reminiscent of a Friendly Fires fast-paced choppy guitar extract, followed up by ‘Stars’ an unprogressive, downhearted finale, leaving the listener in need for more, yet struggling to comprehend how this very atmospheric yet one-themed band could develop their music for a second release.

~ Article by James Murray

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