the xx/Coexist: uneasy about English Pop. beautiful yet unsatisfying.
This Mercury Prize winning band is back for more. In 2009, their debut, xx, dazzled the world. Now Coexist is here, also on Young Turks (on September 11th in the US and the 10th in the UK.) Apparently? we have been waiting with anticipation for Coexist. The thing about this band is…they don’t move much. Every song could be mistaken for another, even if you know their record. Most of xx is full of charming hooks, sing-a-longs and dreams. Their strengths are laid out in the dance-hook, head nodding tracks like “Crystalised,” “VCR,” and “Islands.” It captures you right with “Intro.”
But on Coexist they still haven’t evolved. And they know it. Calling it a continuation themselves, “it’s not a world away.” It’s just a development from our last record, Romy Madley Croft told NME. Which is exactly what it is. Coexist is dreamscapes. It’s layered guitar parts and it’s harmonies that can sing you to sleep. Just like xx, this record is electric. Although it is a lot less hooky than its predecesor. And the lyrics on Coexist seem more distinct and more developed, even as you have a hard time understanding them. They’re singing less about watching outdated videotapes and wasting away into pieces and more about getting together and holding each other forever. (Wait, what??) And from now on when you hear the term ‘spiderwebbing’, look no further than The xx. It is how this band records. Everything is a whisper.
The xx will forever be plagued. Everyone will compare these two records, and future records, (I know I will) because of the way they sound. The comparison is unintentional. Decide for yourself whether or not that’s a good thing. And while the band is completely aware of it, they continue to move forward even if their sound hasn’t moved an inch.
2012 brings follow ups to many great 2009 releases (Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, Passion Pit, Titus Andronicus). Should we be holding The xx responsible for growth and development that is absent in this new record? Or are we willing to let is slide because their music is beautiful? Further, is this the new English Pop?
I still can’t decide if ‘people’ will like this record. The part of me that craves innovation wants people to disregard it even if it might be/could be/will be (?) hailed as excellent, just so we can all move on from the single sound. But you and I know people will not be ignoring this release. Coexist oscillates. If you try to escape it, somehow your brain will move in and out of it. You’ll drop out when the bass does. Parts of this record are just lyrics, the way hip hop uses silence (see Odd Future and Joey Bada$$). It’s not jolts of silence like in dubstep. It might be something else. Or it might be nothing.
Coexist could be a wash. Is the band using their blandness to appeal, to return? They are confident of their sound, which IS like no one else’s. Maybe that’s all it is.
But having listened to this record a few times now, and having revisited xx, I’m still trying to put my finger on Coexist. The thing is, The xx already made this record. What if they keep doing it over and over again? What’s interesting about that? I’m trying to find it. Do you see it?