Was it their intention? The XX debuted in 2009 with their self-titled album “The XX.” There are many adjectives to describe what they group were trying to convey. The album was rhythmic though minimalist, every note intentional and deafening, making for an album that was both haunting and deep. Its attempt to convey imagery was only heightened by its lyrical approach- sporadic thoughts, scattered, none of them fully versed enough to make the image clear.
This was all purposeful. Where music leaned towards the outrageous and the huge, The XX opposed it with minimalism and simplicity. Single guitar leads- solo synth hooks, and the constant voice of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim, interplaying to create a balance between dark and light- male and female.
The group continued this vein in 2012 with their sophomore album “Coexist.” Remarkably, the band stripped their sound even further- refining it to the very bare essentials, and sometimes even less. The sound ended up being so bare it was as if the bones of the songs themselves were being carved out for more space.
This may have hurt their sound for many, but for me, it was a brilliant decision. The structuring of the songs is so simple. Slews of bands have been following their strategy by simplifying their largely synthetic sounds for a more honest and sound approach. James Blake, Purity Ring, and arguably Bon Iver craft their largely focused songs, making them anything but sprawling. Every sound is pinpoint specific- every hook digs deep into one’s consciousness. The term reinventing music is huge, but as many groups go bigger and louder and more bombastic with every note, The XX dials everything down to the other extreme.
With nowhere left to go, we may find the XX following up their second album with a collection of single beeps and boops and vocal moaning. Or they could try a much more expansive multi-faceted sound. Neither would surprise me. As of now, their efforts were heard and appreciated. Music needed the XX as much as the XX needed fans who want things sonically beautiful.
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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