The xx - Coexist [Indie Pop]
Minimalist rockers The xx have returned with more whispers and loose guitar notes on Coexist. Winning a Mercury Prize for their debut self-titled and a lot of praise for critics looking for the next big thing. Their debut has catapulted band leader Jamie Smith as an electronic producer (and his new found skills show well in the crisp, pounding beats). Personally though, I found xx a little to pretentious, liking at most, and really at MOST, only half of their first album.
That being said, there is, stylistically nothing new to find in their album, though the sound is a little upbeat this time with Jamie Smith in production, keeping the main melodies spacey and distant while the beats take a bigger part in the overall sound stage, juxtaposing pulsing dance beats with a guitar that was probably recorded at the back of the recording studio. Songs meander between the fine line between precision and boredom.
Vocals-wise, the duo of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim are... unconvincing to me, as they always have been. The group's obsession with an intimate sound is really limited by the vocal range, with not even a high note or a sudden impassioned coo appearing anywhere to grip you. This is, what I personally feel, gives the band its poseur sound, because ultimately the individual band members cannot make the most out of their songs. Minimalism is harder than the word implies, but it is not impossible. Listen to Tool's Disposition, it could easily fit in well with the xx's imagery and themes of intimacy, tension or passion. The point is to create a huge impact with as little elements as possible. In sharp contrast, the xx merely try to create style but clearly don't give a shit about substance, with no elements of surprise even with an apparent lack of song structure.
The xx are also habitually uninterested in writing full albums, with half of the album falling behind the filler category. Just as their self-titled thrived behind the successes of significant singles like 'Islands', 'Crystallized' (which, interestingly, has been made more minimalist when covered by Gorillaz's frontman Damon Albarn) and 'Infinity'. Here, as well, one sees that it is quite obvious to see which songs were hurried and which were carefully produced; 'Angels', 'Chained', 'Fiction' and 'Swept Away'. Elsewhere, songs appear to become interesting before just ending abruptly, without any resolve or attempt to do so anyway (case in point; use of strings in 'Tides' that leave a lot to be desired. Maybe it's just me.
★★★☆☆ Average - Half of album is listenable