The xx

Photograph by Owen Richards

Following in the footsteps of jj and ZZ Top, the xx are the latest band to draw their name from the highest scoring letters in Scrabble. Every bit as brooding as their appearance, they are also far warmer than looks may suggest. Their debut is both remarkably subdued and highly emotional, an amazing feat for a young band. Droning guitars and synthesized drumbeats serve mostly as background to the shared vocal stylings of  Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim. Male/female double vocals are nothing new, but where other bands would play up the melodrama, the xx keep it deliciously understated, with passion bubbling just below the surface.

Album opener ‘Intro’ is likely one of the most effective introductions to a band I’ve heard in recent years. The components of the band are seen in glimpses, whetting the listener’s appetite for the rest of the material. The album is at its strongest on the duets between the co-vocalists, particularly the singles ‘Crystalized’ and ‘Basic Space’. Croft’s soulful vocals contrast with Sim’s more straight-forward delivery, while the simplistic but effective guitars create just the right atmosphere.

Full credit must be given to the production done by multi-instrumentalist Jamie Smith. Eschewing studio trickery, the comparatively minimalistic production allows the band’s strengths to shine through. Having already toured with the Big Pink, another buzzworthy group actually worthy of the buzz, the xx appear to have a bright future ahead of them.

The xx – Crystalized
The xx – Basic Space
The xx – Shelter

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— , October 7, 2009    1 Comment
Comments:

The flow of this album is unbelievable. Great review Kevin, let’s rock out to Basic Space sometime soon.

Jan, October 13, 2009