On January 13, 2017, the London trio The xx released their third album titled, “I See You,” widening their sound while still sticking to their core perspectives.
Vocalists/musicians Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim along with master producer Jamie xx come together in new ways on this album creating shifts, pointing them in a respected new direction while still holding on tight to their roots.
Speaking of roots, we must first consider The xx’s original self-titled album which came out in 2009. The success The xx achieved with their first album was unexpected but deserved, for their at times whisper-like, emotional voices, lingering nostalgic beats and synths lead them to sell over 1 million album copies and headline festivals. The xx’s second album, “Coexist,” which came out in 2012 was a less influential demonstration of what the trio had to offer. Though there were impressive songs on the album, such as “Angels,” as a whole it doesn’t live up to its predecessor.
Now listeners have “I See You” to consider. So does this album live up to the glass ceiling The xx created with the success for their debut album?
This album is the true example of the intended purpose of an actual album: to be a body of art as a whole. If you take these 10 tracks as separate entities you might, at first listen, be thrown off or turned away (I was a bit after listening to the first few songs)…but if you listen to this album in full you’ll be moved.
One of the most interesting and unique aspects of The xx is the way Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim seem to sing to each other, back and forth, in their songs. This characteristic amongst their songs creates depth and passion which transcends through the lyrics and music, adding heightened ideals of romanticism and loss. I See You takes this attribute coined by The xx and furthers it even more so than previous albums, through the use of new, much more expansive production samples made by Jamie xx. On this third album, The xx decided to forego their previous nature of creating music that could 100% all be performed live which limited them to just bass, guitar, and programmed-percussions, and instead gave producer, Jamie xx, the freedom to truly create sounds to match particular feelings. This shift in production deepens and progresses The xx’s sound, without changing their core ethos. Aha! So third time’s a charm might just be right in this case.
Here are the tracks you must listen to off the album:
This song stands out on the album as not a love song nor a heartbroken tale, but instead it’s Romy Madley Croft’s honestly open tribute to her parents who passed away. She sings, “Even when I was hiding, you could always find me. Now you’ve stopped looking for me. But I’m still playing hide and seek. I want you to notice, but you just don’t see. The show is wasted on you, so I perform for me.”
It’s notably one of The xx’s most energetic songs to date, “On Hold” takes a hook from Hall and Oates song but inevitably makes this track their own. It’s poppy, upbeat feel is a breath of fresh air on this album. It listening and meaningful lyrics such as, “And every time I let you leave, I always saw you coming back to me. When and where did we go cold? I thought I had you on hold.”
“Say Something Loving”
The track strips down in the rawest of forms lyrically and sonically, creating one of the most relatable moments on the album. Romy opens up to her audience singing, “Your touch stays on my skin, I feel it start sinking in. Here come my insecurities, I almost expect you to leave.” Oliver matches her mood questioning, “Were you really looking for me? Try your best to reassure me. I wasn’t patient to meet you. Am I too needy, am I too eager?”
“I Dare You”
It breaks away from the subtle, understated sound The xx at times can be defined by. Instead, it paces in a continual forward manner, making this first true “anthem” The xx has ever produced.
If you listen to “I See You” in full and more than once, you’ll be sure to appreciate its inevitable emotional relatability which The xx is known for, hinting on themes of insecurity, love lost, love found, and judgements. Through their third album, The xx pushes their sound in innovative ways, exploring new territories and above all credits them to be a band capable of more than previously expected.