Photo by Jamie-James Medina

A while ago a friend I know declared British trio THE XX due to their unique ability to touch so many people in different ways to the ‘band of our generation’. A classification that kept stuck in my head since I first heard it. If this is true, what defines our generation? Is there even ‘one’ generation left? What do we stand for and what aspects do THE XX represent within this construct? No matter If there is one clear answer to this or not – you can’t deny the fact that this group is somehow special. And you can’t talk about this band without mentioning the enormous buzz their self-titled debut created three years ago. Out of nothing there came a band with a unique sound, a record everyone could agree on. Their reduced wave pop created a new tendency in popular music – a sense for intimate and introspective simplicity. Without THE XX their wouldn’t have been a JAMES BLAKE or a HOLY OTHER. Well, at least not in this form and with this reputation. THE XX made waves they got almost strucked by – founding member Baria Qureshi left the group shortly after the beginning success. And the band only knows how they dealed with all the pressure resulting from other people’s expectations towards their sophomore longplayer.

 

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But after hearing the first tones of lead single and album opener Angels the whole world started buzzing again – looks like this trio can’t do wrong, well at least not with their second longplayer. Coexist is a return in form, a logical consequence of the debut and a continuation that feels familiar and fresh at the same time. When the voice of Romy Madley Croft starts its fragile singing during the opener you’re instantly feeling comfortable again in the specific mood THE XX tend to create. And you wait for an dramaturgic explosion that just won’t come as the opening track keeps it simple. But overall you sense a certain progress in terms of production skills and consequence. That doesn’t mean Coexist is loveless high end music – it’s still the reduced beauty of the first record but you feel that it’s been recorded in a real studio this time instead of the groups bedroom.

And you feel that the countless live performances or maybe the DJ appearances by sound genius Jamie Smith gave them a better feeling for groove and beats since there are some actual – but of course very decent – danceable tunes on it. Most of it Chained, the irresistible Reunion with its steel drums or the – in terms of length – epic Swept Away. You can actually dance to these tunes but the overall mood is still very melancholic and introverted. And whenever there is too much groove within these tracks there are always the very reduced ones like Tides with his beautiful and almost acapella-like intro or Missing with the demanding and typical guitar sound and a longing undertone in the voice of Oliver Sim. Like on the first record the combination of the male and female lead vocals gives the songs a perfect tension and sensitivity. THE XX are still not a band of the huge topics, of rebellion and loud words – their songs are about intimacy, the fragile bound between two people in times of uncertainty.

 

This turning towards the simplified hope of love and a feeling of security defines the certain magic of this group and their music. And it helps maybe defining the vague construct that is our generation. In accelerated times with political and societal changes and a skeptical thinking in general emotional music like THE XX gives us hold, a direction and a clearer definition of what is wrong and what is right. Maybe it’s still uncertain, maybe we can’t be sure of anything. But this might define us all – and the music by this group. Clearly a soundtrack to all of our lives. You can now stream the whole longplayer in its entirety over at NPR.org. Just click here.

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THE XX
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wave / pop
from London, United Kingdom

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