The xx – xx

Review Score: 9.0

Man, I love 80s guitar driven rock. Pixies, Sonic Youth, Smiths, Cure… you know. Those catchy riffs are one of my most treasured elements in music. I also loved the amazingly bleak, tense and eerie atmosphere of Joy Division’s Closer. On the flip side, one thing I’m not crazy about are those lame, predictable and generally shitty R&B lyrics. Think Mariah Carey… she tries to convey emotion, but I don’t know, it always seems false and forced. Way too over the top and in your face to really evoke any kind of sincere reaction.

Mashing all those elements in a single cohesive whole? Madness surely. But somehow on their debut LP the London based quartet of Romy Madley, Oliver Sim, Baria Qureshi and Jamie Smith manage to do just that, and in the process end up with one of the most sincere and hauntingly beautiful records of the year. The way they achieve this is by stripping everything down to the bone. Lazy melancholic vocals, simple and catchy guitar riffs, the occasional keyboard melody and an ever present drum machine is all they need.

Intro, the first song on the album, does just want it’s name would have you believe and sets the mood for what’s to come. Ironically Intro is probably the most upbeat (well, maybe excluding Islands) and pumping song on the album, from there on the mood only gets darker and tenser. The first real song, VCR, is a perfect example of the beautiful way in which long time friends Romy Croft and Oliver Sim play of each others vocals and deliver a powerful sense of tension while always keeping a laid back, melancholic tone.

Singer Oliver Sim sounds strangely similar to Belle & Sebastian front-man, Stuart Murdoch. This works very well, especially on Basic Space, where he starts as if he doesn’t mean to, delivering his lines in a jaded, lazy tone. Shortly after, Romy Croft steps into the spotlight, complementing Sim’s laziness perfectly with a sharper, more piercing delivery before it ultimately all comes together into a duet backed by punchy drumbeats and achingly beautiful guitar riffs. These moments fill the album with soul and emotion and rise it above “catchy guitar music” status, making it a remarkably mature and sophisticated listen.

xx is a record that doesn’t hit you in the face and make you instantly notice and acknowledge it. Instead what it does is slowly but surely creep up on you, getting deeper under your skin with each chord, each beat and each verse Sim and Croft play of each other. Before you know it, xx has you deep under it’s spell and you can’t stop wanting to hit the play button over and over again.

Without a doubt one of the best bands to come out of the British scene in a long time and, keeping in mind they’re just ending their teenage years, also the most promising one.

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2 Responses to “The xx – xx”


  1. 1 Retrospekt August 12, 2009 at 4:06 am

    Easily one of the best albums I’ve heard all year. I can’t wait for their next!

  2. 2 UnsolvedMysteries September 17, 2009 at 6:43 am

    Man this created TONS of buzz on what. I really don’t get it, I think this album isn’t very good… quite boring imo. Seems like I’m the only one that doesn’t like it.


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