As soon as I got myself in the mood for writing, I recalled the last review about the band: I wrote it when I was overly obsessed by The xx, so the review turned out to be very personal and somewhat out of this world. Times have changed, band members grew older, so I’ll try to be more mature in my words, too.
I won’t exaggerate if i say that The xx presented something fresh and new with their eponymous album, in their own unique ways, as minimalistic as possible. No wonder the album received a Mercury Prize in 2010, a credit that’s both motivating and obliging at the same time. The band handled obliging part quite rapidly and well, when the bassist immediately announced they weren’t planning on recording a new album yet. Not that anyone believed him, of course, but the statement cooled things down a little.
The xx band members were busy each on their own before settling down to record Coexist. Oliver and Romy were polishing their songwriting skills once the band got back from touring, while Jamie xx made quite a successful solo career in 2010-2011, perfecting his DJ magic, revealing his remixing abilities and collaborating with various well-known musicians. Naturally, the result of such various and individual growth would give birth to an album like Coexist.
Their typical topics, those of separation and love, have remained in their music. The music itself has changed, and that might disappoint some at first. But once you hear to the new songs performed live, especially during their latest shows, you might change your mind. Their music is best perceived when you see them play: Jamie at his DJ table, Romy and Oliver with guitars – first one being all humble and serious, while the other slowly dances to his own bass line. When they switch to new songs after playing their older hits during the gig, everything falls into its right place.
First track, Angels, is a substitute for first album’s Intro, being the opening tune of the record. It’s not as good as Intro, though, starts with guitars again followed by Romy’s vocals. This also was the first single off the album.
When Chained starts, the album seems to finally reach its real beginning. Minimalistic duo with soft beats, that will be best remembered by the “We used to get closer than this” line and a piece where guitar takes higher and higher notes as it progresses.
Fiction is one of the best tracks on this record, consisting of drum-machine-based rhythms, Oliver’s touching performance and repeating guitar, keeping pace with the rhythm in the overall softness that is the song.
Next interesting – and important – part of the album consists of two songs, Reunion and Sunset. They’re inter-connected, second one being the logical continuation of the first one, and the transition from one to another is especially beautiful during the live shows. Reunion starts with almost “empty” vocals and interesting percussions, and then one by one the guitars start to pitch in; the song transforms into minimalistic techno music from halfway through with repeated lyrics – “did I … see you … see me … in a new light?” – that go on in general electronic installation right until you’re already in the next track, Sunset. Main “hero” of this one is Jamie, who did input all his solo career experience so that it’s almost possible to define this song as a dance one.
Try and Missing are the most dreamy and floaty songs that fill up the album with their themes.
Tides is another example of main songs of Coexist, minimalistic and full at the same time, with Romy’s expressive performance, Oli’s voice much like the sound of the bass he plays and Jamie’s handprints in a variety of sound effects. This is a song to put on repeat and find something new in both its music and lyrics with every replay.
Last tracks are experimental: Unfold is something close to dream-pop; Swept Away starts out simply but transforms into a song with dance beats along the way, yet still retaining its melancholic mood.
Our Song is special for at least the fact that band members addressed it to each other, – something they haven’t done before.
Despite all the critic reviews out there on the Internet (mainly positive, of course) with combined rating of maybe 7 starts out of ten for this album, it’s not really important to concentrate solely on the studio recording. Band’s live shows should also be taken into evaluation, and fans are especially fond of Coexist when hearing it in concert; and The xx don’t lose a single chance to express their gratitude for that.