The xx produce songs that have this habit of sticking in my head for a long time. Ever since I heard “Heart Skipped a Beat” used in a promo for a 90210 episode years ago on E4, I’ve been in the habit of becoming slightly obsessed with their lyrics and their distinctive beats.
Their latest release, I See You, works both as a continuation from their previous albums and as a stand-alone ten-track record that introduces new sounds and themes.
Opening track “Dangerous” hits you like that familiar wall of bass when you walk into a club and you’re scoping out the talent while trying to look nonchalant. It sounds celebratory and jubilant with its pumping beat and high energy vibes.
The single “Say Something Loving” begins with a Beach Boys-esque vocal backdrop that zips along in the background, with a clattering percussive sound tinkling away on repeat. Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim bring life to their lyrics with familiar, strong and sweet vocal duets. Their lyrics reflect a vulnerability that makes them all the more relatable to the listener:
“The thought flows through my mind and it’s growing all the time. I do myself a disservice
to feel this weak, to be this nervous.”
This motif runs through the record, their feelings of anxiety and unease present in some way in every song. The relatable lyrics of “Performance” endears them to us, with the soft swell of violins mixed with a sonorous guitar riff and Romy singing: “I’ll put on a performance, I’ll put on a show. It is a performance, I do it all so you won’t see me hurting when my heart it breaks.”
They capture a kind of mature, adult angst felt by millennials and they aren’t afraid to lay bare their relationships, be they destined or doomed.
“Replica” rings with an 80s vibe and you can almost picture the neon lights of the music video title à la Grand Theft Auto Vice City. They voice insecurities that we all feel and experience, and it is brave of them to craft their lyrics in such an honest way: “25 and you’re just like me, is it in my nature to be stuck on repeat?”
Contrasting their nifty, tricky little looped beats with haunting lyrics, “On Hold” marries some sick hooks with The xx’s signature siren song-echoes, with Romy singing: “I can’t hold on to an empty space.” You said it, Romy.
“I Dare You” explores the idea of pushing for more than just a fling, of looking for that passion within a relationship that will inevitably burn out and end in heartbreak and, on the bright side, inspire another album. “A rush of blood is not enough, I need my feelings set on fire.” It flows with a clock-tick beat that’s lively and has a melody that pushes forward and pushes for more.
The xx are good at producing definitive break up albums, and their latest release is no different. There is a fuller sound to their production – it’s a bit more electro with a bit more funk, and that works for them. If these experiences are what it takes for The xx to make music like this, may their love lives be forever cursed, just like mine is.