Since 2009, The xx have spearheaded the R’n’B/indie movement, created one of the most sampled tracks of the 21st Century and turned a cult movement into a global success. Now in 2017, The xx create new ground with I See You; while simultaneously echoing the achievements of their debut LP.
Released: January 13th, 2017, Young Turks.
From Coexist to I See You, the four-five years in between LP2 and 3 feels like virtually nothing. With Intro being sampled on every TV show in the UK and its heavy use on the UK grime and house scenes, it’s felt no longer than a moment since Coexist was released. Even since their debut XX was unleashed upon the world, the London trio has filled the last 8 years with more than any band of this century.
The group’s past two LPs demonstrated high levels of restraint, relying upon their minimalism style to fill the air. With a simple pluck of Romy’s guitar, integrating together with either Oliver’s seductive bass or Jamie’s light electro work, XX and Coexist played out the beginning of The xx with carefully planned precision.
A peninsula of awe-inspiring beauty, I See You captivates the essence that we’ve come to know and love about the London trio. The scarcity among deeply layered structures of personal conflict is signature xx, near-impossible now to make convincing in a similar fashion without being labelled a rip-off of the group.
I See You boldly goes where The xx wouldn’t dare to have travelled earlier on in their careers, as a larger focus on Jamie’s work anchoring a number of tracks throughout I See You is more prevalent.
Opener Dangerous, immediately debuts I See You with harsh trumpets, something that previously wouldn’t be associated with The xx, but sounds perfect when layered across Dangerous. Romy and Oliver’s vocal combination also shows change, as the two appear more confident than ever, fully powering through to match the same intensity that Jamie’s work provides.
Similarly, on A Violent Noise, the trio’s power balance reflects a new xx era, as each member flares up intensely with their recently adopted, house-flavouring.
While The xx appear bolder and more experimental on I See You, their greatest achievements in the form of previous tracks such as Angels, Try and VCR, creating minimalistic love songs, remains their crowning glory.
The singles, On Hold and Say Something Loving, are I See You’s attempt of reflecting their previous highlights, easily placing alongside them while standing out for obvious reasons. On Hold’s thumping electro-rhythm in sync with rolling bass notes may sound like 2009 xx on paper, but again, Jamie’s upbeat electro sampling using Daryl Hall & John Oates’ “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) with On Hold, carries on the more upbeat feel, which I See You provides. Even on Say Something Loving, with the sample from Alessi Brothers’ 1978 track “Do You Feel It, the track immediately becomes energised, allowing the trio to power through.
Some of the strongest tracks on this LP are in fact the more familiar xx-sounding ones, such as Performance, with its clash of wanting to be abrupt and break out of formalities, but also performing for a lover’s pleasure. Brave For You similarly, while a tribute to her deceased parents, shows Romy struggling with her identity, promising to remain strong and brave while appearing forced and fragile, as Brave For You engulfs her vocals with thunderous drums and over-powering electronic and guitars, signifying the delicacy of Romy’s situation.
The omnipresent notion of personal afflictions is common throughout I See You, portrayed with a trusting vulnerability, welcoming in fans alike who suffer from the same issues of anxiety, doubt, fear and malcontentedness. The xx, however, being as equally seductive in their music as they are anxious, show a side that hasn’t been displayed so loudly on past LPs.
The notion of anxiety in love is a concept that troubles people from all walks of Earth every day. It’s a truly terrifying experience to welcome in someone with complete trust and intimacy, whether it be a platonic or romantic relationship. I See You expresses this fear, sharing with the world the naked side of The xx’s world, bearing unfolded arms, ready to be exposed to whatever may face them.
Cloaked in dark-anxiety, that made ‘goth’ sound sensual and exciting, The xx’s past still channels its way through their present selves, but I See You welcomes in a new change of pace for the group. Once reluctant arms are now open wide with the warmth of sensual R’n’B/indie, instead of being hidden underneath this. Open air has allowed anxiety and fear to become topics of acceptance, understanding that these aren’t gone completely, but can now be approached and told in such a way that it alleviates the anxiety surrounding anxiety.
I See You does just that. It projects emotion upon its listeners, stating that no matter where you might be, or what you may be dealing with, you are visible and not alone. Sharing an experience so enriching for both sides, The xx elevate their already high standards to new levels.