The xx have a lot to live up to. Their debut album was the critic’s darling, making numerous end of year lists and of course taking the coveted Mercury Music Prize. Then came a period of uncertainty; Jamie xx was off doing lots of side projects, there were rumours that the band were going to split. But the trio pulled through, much to our relief. All this means that the follow up, ‘Coexist’, has become one of the most hotly anticipated records of 2012, and will probably be one of the most toughly scrutinised.
So far, so good, from what we’ve heard. Scrappy live recordings have appeared as the xx begin to show off tracks from the forthcoming album, but it’s the tracks they’ve released properly which will pique the listener’s interest. While ‘Angels’ could easily have slotted in on the first album, ‘Chained’ shows the band moving slowly in the direction which many would have predicted. Although it starts with those hushed vocals from Romy and Oliver that we all first fell in love with, they’re quickly underpinned by beats from Jamie xx which stand out a lot more than they did previously. His collaboration with Gil Scott-Heron as well as his various remixes suggested that the standard drumming on ‘Angels’ could be a one-off. It definitely works. As the singers lament ‘we used to get closer than this/is it something that you miss?’ the almost upbeat rhythms only add to the intensity of it all. The fragility and the vulnerability of the vocals is contrasted with a new-found confidence which is being shown off in the percussion, a confidence which could really be seen on their Conan performance, a confidence which will only make the band even better. The abrupt end to the track makes you ponder only one question; can the xx really do it again? From the sound of this, they can.
Jessy Parker Humphreys