Following a Mercury award winning album can be difficult. For artists like Franz Ferdinand, Anthony and the Johnsons and The Klaxons the Mercury was not a spring board for success, rather it was an award to mark the end to a short-lived career. However The xx, have, with Coexist delivered an album which is on a par with their debut self-titled album. Some criticism has been drawn to the fact that Coexist does not seek a distinctive, new, creative direction. However, their debut left you wanting more of the same, Coexist is this and more.
Coexist epitomises The xx and everything they stand for, detached yet emotional, reclusive yet insightful and most of all minimal yet musical.
The albums spine of influence is clearly defined by the work of Jamie xx, the bands producer/non-vocal contributor. Jamie xx’s success as a producer is huge, outside of his work with his two school friends Oliver Sim and Romy Madley-Croft. His collaboration with Gil Scott Heron fused his passion for Jazz and Soul with the emerging minimalist approach to music, which defines his work. It is no surprise then that examples of his style can be found in the distinctive drum beat in Chained as well as in Sunset, a song which has already been reworked by himself and that is currently included in his solo DJ performances. Yet The xx that was so commercially successful still exists, Angels, a heartfelt song of love that will sit happily as a soundtrack to a piece of TV drama as it does in a muddy festival field. Reunion’s distinctive steel drum introduction show that although The xx have not reinvented themselves, they have learnt and grown introducing new concepts to a minimal sound, a difficult skill without making a song sound crowded or muddled. The rest of the album continues in a similar vibe, mixing the minimal sound that we have come to associate with The xx, with new dynamic drum beats and emotive, mature lyrics.
The album then, is an honest and insightful look into a band, that shies away from the spotlight and tends to limit their tour dates to a few selected cities every so often. It shows the band have grown up both personally and musically and this maturity has produced an exceptional record with songs that can be enjoyed universally. Personally, it fills me with great pleasure that as a fan of The xx I can say that their second album although not as cutting edge, is every bit as wonderful as their debut. For The xx their real challenge is where they will go next with their music, but that at the moment only appears as an exciting prospect.
Words: Adam Gardiner