posted by dpm on 01/20/2010
The XX XX
Review by Chris Duca
I heard a quote once that goes something like this: “Eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” Since god-knows-when, I’ve held onto these words knowing that it was a good mantra to live by. Little did I know that one day I’d be relating that very line to a mysterious four-piece British music act called The XX discovered deep within the soupy ether of Cyberspace.
The XX has pieced together not just a great LP here; they’ve created an embracing alt. pop soundscape with minimal vocals, guitar, and drum work—a feat not to be taken lightly. Their freshman release is akin to some of the most recognizable bands of the sleepy/ atmospheric ilk: The Cocteau Twins, The Red House Painters, and Stars. However similar The XX may be to these other success stories, there’s something special and unique about this duo’s fashionable poise. Their novel stripped-down approach to crafting music is incomparable to anything I’ve ever heard, thus making it hard to place a solitary label on it. Perhaps it’s the beguiling female/male vocals, or maybe it’s the echoing forest of reverb the guitar creates—possibly it’s both. While the album functions perfectly as a whole, there are the noticeable thunderheads amongst a sky of fluffy white clouds. “Intro”--you guessed it—is the opening track, and, with its absence of vocals, languidly builds a warm, downy façade. At the same time, the melancholic “Heart Skipped a Beat” and “Shelter” offer the precise amount of nostalgic meditation. Balancing out the album is the acid-washed “VCR”, and the palliative “Islands”. “Crystalised” coolly opens the floodgates for the listener, while “Nighttime” and “Stars” lilt to-and-fro over an open plane of lazy arpeggios.
The XX is an indisputable ambassador of placid pop. For me—and hopefully the rest of you reflective-types out there—The XX provide that much needed cerebral vacation from annoying gym prattle or the occasional crag banter. Turn your lights down low, and channel your inner Zen climber, yo.