Thursday, January 19, 2017

I See You | The xx



The eponymous debut album from alternative pop band the xx was branded with some broad characteristics: roomy mood boards and a painfully obvious feeling of indifference from Romy Craft and Oliver Sim. Their sophomore album, Coexist, tightened the criteria, toying with unorthodox implementations of club music within the same dreary soundscapes. Delayed two years by Jamie Smith's 2015 solo endeavor, the trio's third album provided them with two approaches: Take notes from Lana Del Rey and become successful parodies of their own eccentricity, which seemed to be the path that Coexist suggests they would have taken, or grab a fresh source of inspiration to keep the critics, already placed under their thumbs, and audience at bay.

A trip down the latter path led them to I See You, an album that watches the three members edge closer and closer to the dance floor of an underground discotheque. Their steps are small, though, as not to shed the mysterious reputation they gained from standing in the dark street corner outside the club for so many lonely nights. We noticed, though, that the self-proclaimed cool kids wanted to join the fun before even digging into this album. While I See You makes that obvious when it proclaimed itself the first album courageous enough to open with brazen blares of brass since Carly Rae Jepsen's E•MO•TION, Smith's In Colour pushed itself to the center that neon-lit dance floor and became one of the main electronic spectacles of its release year.

Now, it's not been determined if Smith dragged his band mates to said party or if they asked to tag along, but they sit comfortably enough in the webs of electronic, pop, and rock influences that Smith weaved to cradle their voices. Somewhat less disinterested reincarnates of Craft and Sim juxtapose the trio's most forward-moving production to date, allowing most of the power to come from their newfound musical backdrops. It's not untrue to say that "On Hold" is the farthest they stray from their original sonic blueprints, but it's also not untrue to say that this album still has the power to alienate those who look to the xx as the gloomiest headliners of the festival circuit. Nevertheless, it's the album expected from the trio, resolving the dissonance between their previous work and the production growth shown on that solo effort.

I See You is available now under Young Turks.