Album review: The XX - 'The XX'
Urban tales of heartbreak and adoration from four sensitive south London souls
[a]The XX[/a], four kids from the dubstep heartland of south London, have quietly set up an emotional squat in those spaces, with bedsit-delicate love songs. It’s strange that such a traditional
set-up (drums, bass, keys, guitars, voices) has resulted in one of 2009’s most unique debuts. The praise can be laid at the door of the band themselves: synths-and-beats man Jamie Smith produced the album himself and they draw together eclectic materials from avant-garde hip-hop to R&B to pure pop.
‘Islands’, a gorgeous psycho-geographical love song, finds the husky twosome of Oliver Sim and Romy Madley-Croft cooing, “I am yours now, so now I never have to leave/I’ve been found out, so I’ll never explore”: the perfect soundtrack for wandering aimlessly along rainy London streets.
‘Heart Skips A Beat’ is, again, almost unbelievably beautiful, aching with longing. All these songs seem in the first flush of love, agonisingly obsessed, talking of waiting outside doors and wanting to drown. ‘VCR’, casting a match into the gloom with a bright, innocent keyboard chime, recounts evenings filled with unspoken, natural intimacy. For a band of schoolfriends whose singers “learned to speak together”, this is not insignificant.
That closeness intensifies on the beautifully menacing ‘Crystalised’, a gentle warning to an over-hasty lover. The contrast between the reverberating spaces of their stripped-back sound and the almost insular intimacy of the soft, smoky duets is totally delicious. Towards the end, though, that deliciousness can start to become suffocatingly rich. But that’s a little bit like complaining about having too many diamonds, though. For the most part it seems like the space The XX have made for themselves is infinite.
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