The iconic trio responsible for one of the most well known “Intro” tracks in contemporary music is back to offer a third succession in their discography after a decently long hiatus within the band. During this break, Jamie xx has been hard at work refining the group’s sound within his own solo projects. The 2015 record “In Colour” surprised many fans with its climactic buildups and overall more bombastic electronica sound that is very much a polar opposite to the timid and stripped down nature of The xx. With this new album, Jamie is able to mesh his hair-raising melodies with the trained voices of Oliver Sim and Romy Croft to form a much more interesting version of The xx, and quite possibly their best recording to date.
The above statement is verified right from the first few seconds of the album, as a loud and boisterous fanfare of horns opens the track “Dangerous”, which helps to verify that this album aims to be different from previous releases. The upbeat percussion loops that follow also show quite a contrast from older albums, which are typically focused upon more soft and minimalistic drumbeats. Another fantastic track is “Replica”, which features the iconic guitar plucking used throughout much of the band’s 2009 release but fused with synthetic keyboards with washed out effects that create an almost EDM-esque level of buildup.
While there is a great degree of change on this record, the band saves some of their older styles on “Brave for You”, which brings down the tempo and relies on more of the traditional instrumentation over Jamie’s house inspired production. Another song that early fans will appreciate is “Say Something Loving”, with its misleading Beatles sounding sample that actually comes from 1976 recording of “Do You Feel it?” by Alessi Brothers. The vocals on this song are long and drawn out but convey a heartfelt and passionate message that is made less gaudy because of the interesting music around it.
When approaching the cons of this album, the only notable flaws can be found within the lyrics and vocals that exist within this piece. That being stated, there is nothing awful to be said other than that Sim and Croft do not showcase the same level of growth in their talent to match the efforts of Jamie Smith. Most of the lyrical themes showcased deal with reunion or coming back together, which could be a more personal tale of the band member’s conflicts with one another. That idea is fine, but the ambiguity is a little too much to create any resonating emotions, and therefore comes across as no more relatable than any other pop song. All things considered, the chemistry between the vocal parts here is still at an astonishing level as it always has been with The xx, and the best showcase of this is on “Lips” with Croft blending her falsetto with Sim’s resolving lower register response.
Overall, The xx have left behind a hefty surprise for such an early release in 2017. With an album that only gets better towards the latter half, tracks such as “On Hold” and “I Dare You” will be the ones that resonate in the heads of fans and newcomers alike. If The xx have never been amusing to you before, now might be the time to give them another chance. My honest opinion of this album is an 8/10.