The xx’s I See You: Reviewed

After years of silence, The xx are back with ten fresh new tracks in their third studio album, I See You. The band – comprised of lead vocalist and guitarist Romy Madley Croft, bassist Oliver Sim, and percussionist Jamie “xx” Smith – have released tour dates for the album, several of which sold out in minutes. I See You’s release has been both highly demanded and anticipated. Now, it is here, and it is genuinely stunning.

The album opens with “Dangerous”, a track which breaks the band’s four-year hibernation in phenomenal style. The beat is incredible – Jamie’s heavy bass riffs are enough to create a profound listening experience, complimenting the other layers brilliantly. Trumpet riffs decorate the track, giving it a bold and unusual vibe, while the chorus is an immediate, overwhelming reminder of the compatibility between the two singers’ voices.

“On Hold”, the first single release from the record, is a poetic conversation between two characters, broken up by an external chorus. It is impossible to describe this track with enough generosity, other than to categorise it as one of those songs that you listen to with your eyes closed: an intense, sensuous “welcome back” statement, with a familiar resonance underpinning the band’s newly revised sound.

The xx

The only conceivable criticism is regarding the instrumental-to-vocal ratio: at times, Sim’s subtle voice is overshadowed by the music, especially with its new weight and intensity. We never actually lose the lyrics, but tracks such as “A Violent Noise” sometimes lack consideration of the natural hush of Sim’s sound. This is, in no way, a criticism of the music itself, which is transcendent. It is merely a shame that the genius behind each member is not able to shine equally.

Jamie “xx” marks his territory, threading that iconic, rich beat through the album. Sim’s bass-playing is clean and sharp, adding a hundred dimensions to every track without over-complicating the melodies, and Croft’s guitar colours the record in an artistically sublime way. Her solo riffs in “Brave For You” flawlessly weave around the vocals, taking the band’s experimental sound to another level of untouchable originality.

The xx is defined by teamwork, and it is impossible to overlook the extent to which these three musicians interlock. The closing track, “Test Me”, brings to life the relationship between the three members, encompassing everything that is the group’s past, present and future. They are stripped-back, essentially minimalist, yet overpowering, brighter and deeper than ever before.

I See You by The xx was released on 13 January 2017. Listen to the album now on Spotify:

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