Three years on from the release of Mercury Prize winning ‘xx’, The XX release follow-up album ‘Coexist’ under great pressure to continue their success. With packed-out festival tents and Brit nominations under their belts, the fresh-faced, ambient outfit had a lot to prove.
With ‘Angels’ comes a newfound sense of melody within Romy Madley-Croft’s voice, while still remaining as breathy and longing as heard on 2009 single ‘Crystalised’. It takes a few tracks before the influence of Jamie Smith is visible, but within the jumpy electro-drums of ‘Fiction’ there is a faint remembrance of his remix project with Gil Scott-Heron, which somehow moulds well with the subtle, quiet tones The xx are widely known for.
Steel drums introduce the aptly titled ‘Reunion’, something which should sound terrible on such a slow, steady song, but the texture it adds send shivers down the spine during the climactic chorus which sees Croft and Smith singing in unison, creating the kind of angst which isn’t at all embarrassing or contrived.
‘Sunset’ is brought in halfway through the album, a track which signifies a shift into the dark, sleepy quality which their debut possessed and remains a signature skill for The xx. However, as the song waves in and out of a dancey consciousness, it is strangely reminiscent of the melodic dubstep of SBTRKT.
The only downfall to this album is that it lacks a standout track; ‘xx’, while being low-key and not at all loud, still featured songs such as ‘Basic Space’ and ‘Islands’ which had the beats and volume levels to be worthy singles, however ‘Coexist’ remains flat and slow throughout, which, could make for a slightly tedious listen for the less patient fan.
Nonetheless, as ‘Our Song’ plays out, it is clear that ‘Coexist’ is a consistent and skilled album. The production is, of course, top-notch and each individual song stands well on its own, and the club elements are incorporated wisely- however, it would have just been nice to see the trio come out of their comfort zone a little bit for album two.