The xx – Coexist
Record Label: Young Turks Records
Release Date: September 11th, 2012
A band’s sophomore album can either make or break a band. They can either top the debut record, or make a band fade into obscurity. In London trio the xx’s case, it certainly helps the band. Their debut self-titled record was very interesting, and quite haunting, in a very memorable way. It was so different, and so strange, but so captivating. It was certainly memorable, too; the same goes with this record, Coexist. The band came back, and released an album with songs that are quite similar to their self-titled record, but certainly much different, too. It’s quite a fantastic balance, but this record really hits.
The record starts off with “Angels,” and it sets the stage for the entire record, essentially; it’s very haunting, with female vocalist Romy Croft singing mainly on it. Most of the songs on this record were written by vocalists Croft and Oliver Sim individually before they finally recorded late last year. “Angels” is a rather soft track, but the lyrics in this song are quite haunting, and the fact they are repeated throughout really do make it more haunting. It’s not an annoying track whatsoever, either; it’s quite interesting. The thing about this record that I absolutely enjoy how simple yet complex this record/band is. “Angels” really does set the stage for the record, as I mentioned earlier, because the rest of the record is quite similar to this track. Is it bad? No, not at all; the xx has a rather haunting, and chilling sound. Next track “Chained” is certainly one of the best tracks on this record. The beat from Jamie Smith is pretty catchy, and there’s even a bit of guitar played on this song. It certainly makes it stand out.
As the record goes on, it continues its pattern of catchy, yet very unique beats and synth by Jamie Smith, vocals and lyrics by both Croft and Sim. The dynamic the two have is fantastic; I typically do not like female-fronted bands, but this isn’t a band that makes it clear that they have a female vocalist. They’re not in your face about it; it’s just there. They don’t put emphasis on Croft’s voice. There’s not too much variety in this record, but with a record like this, it’s forgivable, because I love their overall sound. It’s completely unique, and not many bands are not doing that. However, that does lead to a problem; while their sound is so unique, once you’ve heard on song by the xx, you’ve pretty much heard most of them. You can get the gist of them from listening to a single song. That’s not bad, because if you like what you hear, you can just check the rest of their records out. However, if you’re really looking for variety, this isn’t the place to be. While there is some, there’s not a lot. It only creeps up in certain places, such as fifth track “Reunion.” It features some steel drums by Jamie Smith, and they do provide some variety against his production work, which is fantastic. He’s a wonderful producer, and it makes sense he would work on his own band’s records. He captures their sound brilliantly, and the production is a main reason why I enjoy this much. Even on their self-titled record from 2009, the production was crisp and clear.
While I say that’s a lot of variety, it’s not a bad thing. There are plenty of highlights, such as the first three tracks, “Angels,” “Chained,” and “Fiction.” Those three tracks are extremely strong, and if you’re not a fan of them after listening to those three tracks alone, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s very minimalist in its structure; the songs are rather loosely structured, actually, and there’s really formula in place. That’s good, and bad all at once. It’s great, because it’s different, and a lot of bands do rely on set formulas to make their music. This band doesn’t, and it works out wonderfully, but the record does drag on in certain places, because of that. There are a lot of highlights on it, as I mentioned. Aside from the first tracks, as I also mentioned, there are more. Sixth track “Sunset” is a wonderful track. It’s a bit slower, and features a guitar, which is one of the few tracks that does feature a guitar at all. The lyrics are also rather introspective, and one thing I do absolutely adore about this record are the lyrics. They’re all about loneliness, heartbreak, and intimacy. Those are all things that we, as humans, can relate to, I’m sure. We’ve all gone through those types of things, and have felt those emotions. The record goes a step further, and ultimately tells a story about a failed relationship, and how the two people in it are trying to save it, and cope with its loss. Seventh track “Missing” is another one of those songs that have lyrics I absolutely love. The next track “Tides” is another interesting track, because it starts with Croft and Sim singing at the same time, and it’s quite haunting because that’s all that you hear. It’s great. The rest of the record is quite fantastic as well. Ninth track “Let It Unfold” has a lyric in it that will certainly be quoted a lot; it goes, “Out of sight, out of mind; doesn’t mean you’re not mine.” That’s definitely a lovely and really clever lyric, if you think about it. The last track “Our Song” is one of the more optimistic songs on the record. It really closes it out nicely, because it essentially is the end of the story between the two people in the relationship they’re writing about.
Overall, this record is very entertaining; I liked it a lot more than their self-titled record, and I think it’s because they’ve had a lot of time to really craft these songs quite well. They could’ve easily fallen into the cracks of musical obscurity, but they’re still relevant three years later. This record is even stronger than their debut, and it really works quite well. The fact that this record is a loose concept record is another reason why I really like it, because to really understand it, you have to listen to the album all the way through. However, this is an album that really took me by surprise, because of how well crafted, and how brilliant it is.