Earlier this month, The xx was awarded the Barclaycard Mercury Prize, an annual music award given to the best album from the United Kingdom and Ireland. The group beat out some stiff competition, including Mumford & Sons, Foals and Dizzee Rascal.
I can’t say I’m surprised, though. I’ve thought the world of their self-titled debut since it came out just over a year ago.
The xx seem to have an uncanny ability to create an atmosphere where the only things that exist are the music and the listener. I’ve described the album to friends by saying that if it was out when I was 15, I would have locked myself in my bedroom with it for months. A mix of shoegaze, indie pop and electric ambient, xx is the best breakup record of the past 12 months — and maybe, excuse the hyperbole, the decade.
Vocalists Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim sing to each other in a near whisper on most tracks, reminding me of too many episodes of Felicity. (If you get the reference, you should be very sad). The minimalist approach The xx takes compliments these breathy exchanges. A drum machine, guitar, bass and keyboard are all they need to bring the listener into their world.
It’s easy to get lost in the back and forth between the two singers. One seems to be trying to keep the relationship together while the other is walking away. But, on some tracks they seem to switch parts. Or maybe they feel the same way, but they can’t seem to communicate their feelings at the same time.
Here’s an example of a lyric from the song “Crystalised,” where they are both singing. The parentheses are Oliver’s lines:
Glaciers have melted to the sea (Things have gotten closer to the sun)
I wish the tide would take me over (And I’ve done things in small doses)
I’ve been down onto my knees (So don’t think that I’m pushing you away)
And you just keep on getting closer (When you’re the one that I’ve kept closest)
Maybe that isn’t the absolute best passage on the record, but it’s the one I like the best. There are a lot of things I like best on this album, though.
The song “Infinity” has a couple of things going for it that might make it my favorite song on the record. First of all, the drum loop that they have on this track is just sick. I could listen to it over and over. Secondly, and this is my absolute favorite thing about the song, it reminds me of the Chris Isaak hit “Wicked Game.”
The theme of “Infinity” seems to be the antithesis of “Wicked Game,” but they are so sonically similar that it is impossible for me to think of one without the other (much like Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” and Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” — only not the exact same song with different words).
If you can’t tell by now, I recommend this record. If you’re down, in a sad mood, you’re going to relate to the lyrics. If you’re having a great day, the music isn’t gonna bring you down. Xx really is a sort of perfect album for all moods.
It’s been out for over a year, so you may have already come to that conclusion on your own. If not, go out and get xx! Buying instructions below.
- The xx hails from South West London and is: Oliver Sims (bass/vocals), Romy Madely Croft (guitar/vocals) and Jamie Smith (keyboards).
- Originally a four-piece, guitarist/keyboardist Baria Qureshi left the group after the recording of their debut album.
- Xx is available on iTunes for $9.99. The CD is listed for the same price on Amazon.com.
- The xx will perform at The Chicago Theatre on September 28 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $38.21 (taxes included).
“Islands” official music video