A second album that shows a slight change of direction from the London trio, but there’s still a huge ‘X’ hallmarked all over it.
Two whole years have passed since The XX released their debut self-titled album, one that filtered effortlessly into the general public’s subconscious. From BBC idents to their Glastonbury performance with Florence, the Mercury Prize winning signature sparse sound was instantly recognisable even for those who didn’t have the faintest idea who they were.
With a platinum selling masterpiece debut album already under their inevitably black belt, the question that revolved around Coexist was whether the band would stick to their incredibly successful formula, or attempt something different. Interviews show that the band themselves were surprised by the adulation and fame that was rightly cast their way, and they gave off the feeling that they accidentally created one of the most catchy and complete debut albums of all time. Whilst recording Coexist, Youtube links were shared on their Tumblr, hinting at influences varying from SBTRKT to Stevie Nicks. It was impossible to gauge the sonic direction in which school friends Romy, Oliver and Jamie were heading.
Angels and Chained were released prior to the album, and indicated at an even emptier sound, replacing the catchiness of Islands and Crystalised with even more heartfelt lyrics. On the face of it lines such as “did I hold you tight? Did I not let enough light in?” seem appropriately placed in the scrawling diaries of a hopelessly romantic fourteen year old. However, they have a feeling of genuineness when whispered over Jamie’s desolate dubstep.
The one problem that Coexist was going to have were the inevitable comparisons to its predecessor, and although with just one listen it may seem a little tame when stacked up against their debut album, it’s an organic collection of songs that continue to grow. Noticeably there are hardly any patterns laid down, just constant shifts that breeze through you slightly subconsciously, mostly lusciously, rather than creating a sense of frustration. Where riffs once played such an integral part to their sound, there is now a shift towards freedom and experimentalism.
Missing’s masterful build up incorporates a few seconds of radio silence, a real sign of musical maturity on Smith’s part, whilst Tides’ light, bouncy riff and swinging bass line injects a welcome bit of steam into the latter part of the album.
The signature sound is still undeniably there, and whilst it may not be as widely heard as XX was, it’s a beautifully crafted second album, steeped in music influence and life experiences.