It’s been 5 years since The XX last released an album as a band, but with the result of I See You, they have clearly made the most of this time.
I See You is another beautiful example of the minimalist production, soft melody, and perfectly intertwining vocals of Oliver Sim and Romy Madley-Croft, which The XX have become known for. However, whilst The XX’s second outing Coexist keeps close to the blueprint of their self-titled debut, with I See You, the band has moved forward, breaking new ground.
From the opening track ‘Dangerous’, The XX appear to have developed from their earlier albums. The track is opened by the blasting of horns, calling in a larger sound than have be heard on their previous efforts. The album shows the band moving towards the DJ-ing work of Jamie XX in his most recent solo album, In Colour. The lead single ‘On Hold’ shows the development of their sound from their debut album, with this track brilliantly enhanced by a sample from Hall & Oates ‘I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)’. ‘On Hold’ even toes the line of ‘pop’, maybe even been dance, something that would have seemed ridiculous when the band first came onto the scene in 2009.
However, The XX are staying closer to their routes in track such as the stripped-down balled ‘Performance’, which relies more on the heart-retching lyrics and Madly-Crofts vocals, rather than the extensive production of Jamie XX. In ‘Replica’, the classically understated vocals of Sim beautifully merge with Madley-Croft’s eerie guitar line, and are then enhanced by the soft synths which would have seemed out of place on The XX’s first album, but fits perfectly here.
I See You feels fun. The album has an infectious energy, despite the melancholy lyrics of questioning such as “with everything I pretend not to here// Am I too high?// Am I too proud?” on ‘A Violent Noise’. Listening to I See You it is easy to remember why the world fell in love with this trio when they first emerged in 2009. Since then, the musical landscape has changed dramatically and it would be easy to wonder whether The XX would still hold the same excitement. In the album closer, Madley-Croft sings “test me// see if I stay”, and with I See You, it is certain that The XX are not going away anytime soon.