REVIEW: The xx – I See You

"I See You." Photo via:

The Band: The xx is an English band consisting of Romy Madley Croft (vocals, guitar), Oliver Sim (vocals, bass), and Jamie Smith (beats, MPC, production), who is also known by the stage name for his solo act, Jamie xx. The band formed in 2005 and released their debut, self-titled album in 2009. Immediately after release, The xx gained notoriety. They were consistently placed amongst the top ten albums of the year by publications such as Rolling Stone and NME. In 2012 the band released their second album, Coexist, which gained the group an even larger following, cementing The xx as one of the most popular Indie acts of all time, and placing #236/500 on Spotify’s list of most played artists. In 2015, Jamie released his debut album, In Colour, which contained songs featuring each of his bandmates. The most recent project, I See You, was released January 2017.

The Album: I See You seems like a divergence from previous albums while still incorporating various elements of these projects. The newest album certainly seems to feature more of the Jamie xx we were infatuated with in 2015. Through samples, high intensity beats, and his ability to create a specific atmosphere, Jamie really shines. Despite the ways in which this album is a creative break from previous efforts, I See You is undeniably The xx we already know.

The Sound: The sound is really what separates The xx from every other band. On the self titled album, vocals seemed to be used just like any other instrument, and the main event was the atmosphere created through the synthesis of sound. Alternately, Coexist featured a deeper focus on vocals which sacrificed the atmosphere in many cases. On I See You, however, the band has incorporated aspects of both projects, allowing the lovely, and often haunting, dual vocals of Romy and Oliver to amplify the atmospheric components while containing a deeper and more emotional meaning. A perfect example of this is the song, “Lips” , which captures all aspects of the signature sound The xx has worked to cultivate. “On Hold” is a Jamie xx showcase, incorporating a sensational sample from Hall & Oates 1981 hit “I Can’t Go For That”. This song would be shockingly out of place on any of the band’s previous projects, but it fits in very well with I See You.

Is It for Me?: Fans of The xx often disagree about which project is best, but all fans should be able to find something they like from I See You. Fans of the self-titled album should enjoy “Brave For You”, a heartbreaking song of tribute to Romy’s recently deceased parents. Those who prefer Coexist should listen to “Performance”. Anyone who is a fan of In Colour will enjoy some of the more Jamie-heavy songs such as “On Hold” and “Dangerous”.

Final Thoughts: After many years of waiting, the highly anticipated album is an exciting and familiar progression from previous projects. Even though it has been five years since the last album as an ensemble, it feels as though it was time well spent. The xx’s self titled album holds a special place in my list of 10 Greatest albums of all time, and it is very refreshing to have some more casual music from this band. 9/10

For all the big fans out there, here’s my ranking: Self titled>I See You=In Color>Coexist