Back in 2009, London trio The xx released a debut album that became one of the most influential records of the decade. Romy Marley Croft, Oliver Sim and Jamie Smith, along with Baria Qureshi at the time, produced nothing many had ever heard before, the combination of genres left them hanging excitingly between electro-pop and indie, with exhilarating dance influences seemingly courtesy of producer-drummer Jamie xx.
It is those very influences that kick off their latest release, ‘I See You’, the title alone typically inviting. Opening two tracks, “Dangerous” and “Say Something Loving”, released a couple of weeks ago, are of that hybridity we got from their first album.
2012’s release ‘Coexist’ was met with mixed receptions, criticism that was harsh to say the least taking into consideration the task on their hands following up their number 3 charting debut. They have kept their minimalist style throughout their previous work and it is too evident here, less is more runs through the veins of their music. “Performance” explores the masking of ones feelings and Croft is on perfect, gentle form. “Replica” features the harmony they have used to beautifully, following that “Brave For You” is a little bit more… brave, it features bigger drums, it’s more expansive instrumentally towards the back end of the song and it’s hugely successful in creating that dynamic.
Single “On Hold” was released in November, and it instantly conjures up memories from that first record before twisting into a fresh sound, there’s much more going on here, hence why it’s the lead single. It feels like a good blurb for the rest of the album.
Passion-evoking ‘I Dare You’ is the penultimate track, “I can hear it now like I heard it then…”, the harmony resonates, I can too.
Equally provocative, the title of the final song is ‘Test Me’ and the album ends with Jamie Smith’s production creating a unique sound that would have a profound effect on any listener.
What is clear is how Marley Croft and Sim have matured vocally and lyrically, the depth of this album will be music to the ears of critics of 2012’s ‘Coexist’, it’s conversational and that little bit insecure. ‘I See You’ is produced masterfully by Jamie Smith, granted, but this really is an exhibition of how vocally the pair have managed to take elements from their previous work and make them that little bit more adventurous, more mysteries, The xx are all the better for it.