The xx

The xx

The xx

I See You

Young Turks

“We hate it when our friends become successful,” as Morrissey so eloquently put it, but rather than cower in jealousy over producer/band mate Jamie xx’s solo success (his 2015 debut Dance record got a Grammy nomination) The xx rallied and have produced their most ambitious record thus far.

Gone is the starkness of the English band’s 2005 debut, but the haunted feeling remains… It’s just buried beneath a friendly mask of R&B, dance beats, and even a little disco. I See You feels more expansive with risks taken that the group’s minimalist past releases withheld from. Everything feels bolder and broader, with the opening track “Dangerous” setting a tone for a new xx experience — one that involves a horn section and funkier beats.

And then there’s the sample heavy “On Hold,” which teeters between club-ready swagger and the bedroom balladry of the trio’s past. Upon first listen, the unexpected breakdown strikes like a cold shower, but gradually the song’s pull is as irresistible as a hit ’80s tune (is that Hall & Oates they’re sampling? Yep, it sure is). It’s the sunnier, poppier side of The xx and it takes a moment for the brain to adjust, but its songs like this one that will soar strongest when the band’s headlining those big festivals this summer.

Still, it’s the spare heartbreak in the voices of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim on songs like “Lips” and “Replica” that caress most deeply. And it’s the austere sadness that surrounds “Performance” or “Brave For You” that keep the band from plunging too far into the dancehall abyss. I’m not saying that I prefer the band to swim in a sea of lonesome, but there is a beauty that they bring to those quiet feelings of bittersweet melancholy, and as delightful as the new beats can be, It’s in the pain where the voices of Croft and Sim touch upon the most pleasure.

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