It’s been four long years since The xx last released an album, 2012’s ‘Coexist‘. In the time since that record, they’ve been busying themselves with solo projects (Jamie xx finally released his debut album ‘In Colour’ last year), writing for other people (Romy Madley-Croft co-wrote Jessie Ware’s ‘Share It All’) and recording their third album in New York, Texas, Reykjavik, LA and London.
‘On Hold’ is the first proper taste of that record – titled ‘I See You’ – following 55-second clips of songs that may or may not be featured in full elsewhere in the tracklisting. It’s the sound of them at their best; deliciously gloomy as ever, but with added, deceptive sprinkles of positivity.
“Every time I let you leave, I always saw you coming back to me/Where and when did we go cold?/I thought I had you on hold,” sighs Oliver Sim as the glacial chorus is defrosted by Jamie Smith’s skittering, sample-heavy, upbeat production. It’s like he’s marrying his two world up on this track – the inventive dance of his solo output and the minimal, crisp elegance of The xx’s previous records – and with a Hall & Oates sample, no less.
The results are perfect – poised and prettily sad (“My young heart chose to believe we were destined,” sings Madley-Croft at one point) and as full of the trio’s musical DNA as ever, but a refreshing step on from when we last met. With ‘On Hold’, The xx are shuffling towards the dancefloor, seemingly no longer the shy wallflowers that first emerged in 2009. As musical progressions go, this is one we can definitely get behind – whirlwind romance gone sour never sounded quite as glorious as this.
‘I See You’ is released on January 13, 2017 via Young Turks.