The xx – Coexist

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This is the sophomore release of the London trio the xx and was released in early September. The xx consists of Romy Madley Croft (lead guitar, vocals), Oliver Sim (bass, vocals), and Jamie Smith (beats, MPC sampler). Their debut album xx was a favorite of mine for quite some time because I loved the atmosphere the simple song structures created, but the feeling I once had eventually wore off. Perhaps I played the album too much and grew tired of it.

As for Coexist, I had higher expectations. I wanted to hear this band take their sound to a new level, one that would age well with time instead of turning sour. However, I ended up feeling fairly disappointed in what it had to offer. The opening song Angels was far from being the great opener, accurately titled Intro from their debut. The song glides through what sounds like an attempt at being seductive and cute with the repetitive lyrics, “Being as in love with you as I am.” Since the song starts out slow, I anticipated some sort of build-up, but the subtle climax of the drumbeat did not satisfy that expectation. It left me hanging.

Songs like “Sunset” and “Swept Away” have so much potential with their Burial-like beats, but the songs weren’t anything close to what I could imagine them to be and, again, I was letdown. There weren’t any major climaxes or intricacies that really swept me away, you could say.

Another issue I had with this album was the song lengths. Normally, I wouldn’t mind songs that are kept short and sweet and do the content justice, but these tracks felt empty to me and lacking. I would catch myself thinking ‘this sounds promising’ only to realize that the song had already ended. Some of the beats were enjoyable and allowed for a pleasant atmosphere between the guitar riffs and the often shared vocals between Romy and Jamie; this band really kept me in suspense as I waited for some kind of huge transition that failed to occur.

The vocals themselves sound passionate and sincere, which I suppose is a distinct style of the xx. The main problem with the vocals though is that the lyrics they deliver are so unbearably cheesy that it’s hard for me to take them seriously. It seems over-the-top and there wasn’t anything deep or thought-provoking about them. I could feasibly let this slide if the music somehow blossomed into something unpredictable that would expand their sound altogether, but since that didn’t happen I find it difficult to appreciate the music at all.

Overall, I respect the style this band is aiming for and, admittedly, I am a fan of synth-pop/dream pop, but Coexist did not blow me away. The moments that I liked were nice, nothing more. Despite my general disappointment, this isn’t the worst album in the world and I greatly appreciate the emotion the vocalists both put into this. It’s just not for me. It sounds like they were trying to incorporate R&B influences with some ethereal pop and dub-step influenced beats to drive the music further, but instead of blending those genres together into a cohesive album, it sounds to me like something is missing and the result was underwhelming. It was like they had the ingredients to execute a new, bold sound yet they were a few steps behind from entering new territory.

4/10

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