We See You: The xx’s confident growth with ‘I See You’
What began in Wandsworth, England in 2005 as a minimalist pop group called The xx has only grown and matured the brooding, introverted sensibilities they continue to express. With their latest release, I See You, they maintain that identity but add a bombast of rhythm found in front (really back) man Jamie XX’s solo work.
“Dangerous,” the first track I See You, starts us off on an already moving dance-foot; more akin to the swagger of “Intro” than to Coexist’s (2012) “Angels.”
“Say Something Loving” follows the good album rules of a notched-up Track 2, with noticeably stronger vocals from both parties, but particularly from Romy. Whether the fresh new muscle is in the delivery or the mix could be argued, but either way, I think her strength is what makes the minimalism really shine.
Right from the beginning, it becomes clear that Jaime has more central role than he has before. Their eponymous debut found him in a supplementary role, contributing textures and often, the basic pulse. But with I See You, Jaime’s additions are much more obvious and as they’ve already begun to decrease the amount of guitar, it isn’t illogical to let Jaime be the more active shaper of their material. (Try his fantastic solo effort from 2015 In Colour for his ideas expressed on his own, and with guest help of at least one familiar name; Romy Madley Croft.)
Although I say Jaime’s position has been promoted to quasi-leader status and this new record is quick to show that, Romy’s and Oliver’s strings (guitar and bass, respectively) are not far gone. Flashes of their post-punk roots from their first album come out during “Performance,” which, along with Jaime’s string samples, brings the most intense moments I’ve yet to feel in all of their songs. In addition to a great interaction between the guitar and bass, and the expressive vulnerability, Romy shows in her vocals here, this song was very much the standout for me.
Speaking of standing out, and I hope no one resents this, but “Lips” has a way of reminding me of Taylor Swift somehow….and I mean that in the best way. Something about the vocals and rhythm on this one make me feel like I’m hearing a chill-wavey 1989 B-side. And that’s ok.
Side B begins with “Replica” and it has an anthemic power that continues well from “Performance” and “A Violent Noise.” These three together comprise a noticeable “middle chunk” of the record and it easily amounted to my favorite part.
Somehow again, there is a lessening of guitar from the previous record, and the its presence here has grown and changed. They have managed to repeat their haunting and moody approach to the band aesthetics in new ways. “A Violent Noise” is a great example of the retention of their sense of dynamics and structure alongside the progressing growth in their palette of sounds.
The single, “On Hold,” definitely gave me a slight worry as to how much their sound had changed, but within the full context of I See You, the track finds a great place near the end of the album that I couldn’t have seen coming. Lesson learned right? No assumptions.
Beginning with drums very reminiscent of Radiohead’s “There There”, “I Dare You” works well at presenting the departing-goodbye vibes that have typified the next-to-last song on the previous records. I’d say that both “Night Time” and “Swept Away” are the biggest and deepest cuts and I’d argue that “I Dare You” keeps it up.
And as certain as “I Dare You” was the lead-up to the goodbye, “Test Me” is the actual farewell, like “Stars” and “Our Song”, and I think that it is the most effective of the three in that function.
Circling back to identity, I’ll add this thought to my reasons for following these musicians. Whether or not you’re aware, both Romy and Oliver identify as gay, and although they’ve hardly pressed the position to the public, they have quietly made it known once or twice.
That said, I truly appreciate that their listeners can, knowing their romantic preferences, be engaged by the respective singer’s real-life intention with the lyrics, or they can listen to the more superficially presented heterosexual dialogue of man and woman.
To be able to accomplish conveyance of your own message whilst making it effectively available to all persons – especially considering that the message is about love – feels like a very necessary sentiment with which to begin 2017.
“I think this tour is cool because we’re showing there’s not just one way to be gay.”March 7, 2017
- Prev BREAKING: Vague anti-same-sex marriage bill passes Virginia House committee
- Next Two pro-LGBTQ bills pass Virginia Senate with bi-partisan support
- Back to top
- May PFLAG meeting features public school employees to discuss how schools handle LGBTQ students
- Surviving faith and family, Jaimie Wilson looks to support trans people like himself through music
- Richmond Triangle Players buys building, names it after “cornerstone” supporter Robert B Moss
- HAIM drops first record in four years, new single is minimal pop gold
- Join Richmond Business Alliance at the VMFA for OutRVA benefit this Friday