REVIEW: The xx expands music style in third studio album I See You
The xx, one of the most iconic indie pop bands of the 21st century, released their third album I See You last Friday. After four years of writing, recording and creating, the band finally released this new album, complementing their past songs with similar themes and lyrics while harnessing new and unexpected musical qualities.
The xx has consistently set forth thought-provoking music that promotes extensive ponderance and reflection, and this album is no exception. In fact, I See You might be their most contemplative album yet. Exploring heavy topics like love, relationships, heartbreak, vulnerability, intimacy and infatuation, the band urges their listeners to think and challenge common conceptions of true connection while reflecting on past and present romantic ventures.
One of the band’s most impressive qualities has been their ability to generate simple, yet wildly complex tracks, each carrying its own unique message. In I See You, the band continues to capture this striking quality, most notably with the opening track “Dangerous.”
This track offers an interesting take on destructive relationships, youthful rebellion and self-worth. The upbeat rhythm coupled with themes centered on poor judgment starts the album with an edgy opening, a refreshing contrast from the band’s first two albums, XX and Coexist. This opening track indicates a shift from the band’s serene, mellow sound to a more bold, rhythmic quality, one that makes this album highly authentic.
The second song, “Say Something Loving” shifts to a more somber mood, exploring the nature of a fading love tainted by insecurity. The slower, less rhythmic nature of this song appropriately shifts the listener’s focus to a difficult topic, encouraging reflection on what so often extinguishes the spark in romantic relationships.
However, the third track, “Lips,” virtually explores the exact opposite occurrence in relationships: intimacy and infatuation. In creating a sensual mood, the band uses this song to capture a more positive aspect of love and romance. The song touches on how all-consuming love can provide us with the confidence necessary to live wholeheartedly.
After this sensual track, the album returns to a more upbeat mood with “A Violent Noise,” which touches on our reluctance to be vulnerable and embrace deep connections with others, both in friendship and romance. With the fifth track, “Performance,” however, the sound is once again based in somber tones and melodies, examining the idea that individuals tend to mask and suppress their true emotions for the sake of avoiding conflict, painful encounters and heartbreak.
The second half of the album takes the listener on a similar rollercoaster of emotions and sound changes, as the band routinely alternates between solemn and rhythmic tones. In “Replica,” the band begins to incorporate elements that have been more commonly associated with their past albums. In this track, the lyrics are complemented by a dream-like, ethereal quality, one of the band’s trademarks.
The tracks that follow ultimately build up to the final piece, which was particularly memorable. “Test Me” had few lyrics and little to no beat; however, the steady stream of a simple melody slowly escalated, mimicking the often slow but steady progression of romantic relationships. It allowed the listener time to ponder, to dream, to think without distracting melodies, beats or lyrics, which was the perfect way to end the album.
Ultimately, this album is certainly a triumph for The xx, but also for fans of the indie pop genre. With these 10 new tracks, The xx have managed to once again intrigue its listeners with meaningful lyrics and a compelling sound.