music

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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Sweater Weather

Music that is perfect for that lovely time of the year, consisting of colored leaves, apple cider, pumpkins, and long-sleeved attire.

1. American Football – The Summer Ends

2. Yo La Tengo – Autumn Sweater

3. Owen – New Leaves

4. Modest Mouse – Autumn Beds

5. Joie De Vivre – Autumn in New London

6. Carissa’s Wierd – September Come Take This Heart Away

7. Mount Eerie – Through the Trees Pt. 2

8. Tunng – October

Perfume Genius – Put Your Back N 2 It

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There are two pivotal aspects of music I look for when I first hear an album. First of all, I look for any musical complexities that make me get lost in the chord progressions and layered sounds. I also look for lyrics I can relate to or storytelling within the lyrics that takes me to a different place completely. Either way, I’m constantly seeking something abstract that takes my mind on a new journey.

When I first heard the new Perfume Genius album, Put Your Back N 2 It, I did not hear any musical complexities, nor was I totally sold on the song lyrics. However, I was immediately captivated by Mike Hadreas’ heartfelt vocals and overall passion through each and every track. Make sure you have a box of tissues close by because this album is poignant and somber to the max. His beautiful falsetto makes his lyrics truly come alive and he often sounds like he is holding back tears. Don’t get me wrong, his song lyrics are far from boring and though they aren’t intricate necessarily, they are so brutally honest and his voice delivers them in such a sincere tone. I almost felt like I was surreptitiously reading through his diary at some parts; it’s devastating how open and honest Mike presents himself throughout this new release. Songs like“Normal Song” and “Hood” have common chord progressions, but his powerful vocals make tracks like these all the more touching.“Hood” illustrates the struggle of revealing one’s true identity when in a romantic relationship and how it’s even harder when you think the other person wouldn’t love you if only they knew who you really are.

As for an overarching theme in Put Your Back N 2 It, Mike Hadreas deals with problems of drugs, abuse, and even suicide. “17” was the first standout track for me and he has said in interviews that it is written in reference to a gay suicide letter. Musically, these songs are backed by a piano or guitar and the simplicity of it all is appealing to me because it makes the vocals stand out tremendously.

Even though it is incredibly hard for me to pick a favorite track, “All Waters” is the one that sends the most shivers down my spine. All in all, Put Your Back N 2 It is a magnificent work of art because of the way that it so effortlessly captures the pain of human emotions. I would say it is a major improvement from Mike Hadreas’ debut album, Learning. The production is better, the album as whole seems more consistent. It isn’t as lo-fi as the last release; you can hear his voice clearly this time. The only complaint I have is that the songs are so short (the album is only 32 minutes long), but perhaps that is the magic of this release. It leaves you wanting more every time.

9/10