The XX’s blend of dream pop, indie rock, and electronica is the product of Londoners Romy Madely Croft, Jamie ‘XX’ Smith, and Oliver Sim. They formed in 2005 and released their first full album XX in 2009; it was incredibly successful, earning them a Mercury Prize in 2010. In 2012 they released their second album, Coexist, and have spent the next four years working on their latest full release I See You, along with side projects such as Jamie XX’s solo album In Colour.
I See You released its first single, On Hold, in November of 2016 with relative success. Peaking at 38 on the UK singles chart and number three on the UK indie songs chart made it their second highest-ranking song, behind Islands released from their first album. The second single, Say Something Loving, released earlier this month on January 2nd ahead of the album’s final release on January 13th.
Jamie XX has stated that his solo work has heavily influenced the sounds in this album, stating that it is a complete departure from their previous two albums and a completely different concept in of itself. It is obvious the band has tried to create a much more open and experimental record due to the variety of styles on this album; tracks such as Dangerous stand out for this reason with its clear club sound influence.
A Violent Noise and Performance are two tracks that are incredibly reminiscent of older XX tracks, containing minimalistic instrumentals and dissonant, desperate sounding vocals. A Violent Noise progressively becomes more complex as the track goes on due to arpeggios of notes which surge at points in the song creating a really interesting rise in the melody and feel of the song. Performance too has a very minimal instrumentation with just a guitar, a synth, and strings, the vocals sing of putting on a persona and performing while feeling dead inside. It’s a track that shows how the band have evolved from their first album, presenting their classic ethereal tones in a new, more produced light. The strings rise and fall in intensity, the guitar picks up every so often but eventually falls again, Madely’s vocals are full of loss and create an intensely personal mood that the band became known for in their first few years together.
Whilst the album is a step forward for the band, it still manages maintain the feeling of an older XX record due to the distant feeling to the album, the passionate yet harrowingly calm vocals from both Jamie and Madely and the simplicity of a number of its tracks. I See You is an album that will not be forgotten, whilst not as amazing and beautiful as their debut album, it is very experimental with its stylistic and diverse sound and themes and should be praised for pushing the trio’s signature sound where their second album Coexist, largely failed to. Not every track is amazing alone, but the album as a whole is somewhat of an interesting listening experience and I definitely recommend it for anyone who has an interest in the XX’s iconic dreamlike indie, now with added club inspirations.