Arts & Life, Music

The XX: Coexist

The post-internet era has changed the pop landscape. The ADHD generation, who grew up on blogs, YouTube, Twitter, MP3s and any sonic tool imaginable at their fingertips, is reinvigorating pop and what that definition denotes.

In Canada, Grimes’ pop is the sort that melds goth-hued bubblegum and weirdo persona with such disparate influences as Mariah Carey and Skinny Puppy. In the U.K., The xx, that black-clad gang of three raised on Sade and dubstep, concoct a particularly English version.

When we first met the shy Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim and Jamie Smith, they were barely into their 20’s. But like many of the black-clad English bands before them (The Cure, Depeche Mode) dance music and gloom seemed to be in their DNA. Madley Croft and Sims sing about love with the same air of misery and maudlin as Morrissey amid one of those countless doomed relationships.

And in the same monochromatic realm as King Krule’s post-riot R&B, malaise looms large. As with The xx’s debut, Coexist follows the prior’s slo-mo gloom blueprint. Those trademark guitar echoes overlaid by a halo of reverb and far too much luscious atmosphere to match its minimalist sound.

Three years after its debut, the question that still often emerges involves what the mood elicits. Indeed, there is an element of sex. Like the way Madley Croft and Sims whisper lyrics on “Chained” like two lovers pillow-talking. Then there are also Smith’s restrained oscillations and melodic subtleties, which could provide the soundtrack to miles upon miles of love-making sessions (although the band has denied that their songs are about sex).

Coexist is dance-minded, reflecting the trio’s past three years coming-of-age submerged within London’s club scene. In the period between albums, Smith (aka Jamie xx) has produced a swath of remixes, including those for Adele, Florence + the Machine and Drake, not to mention his post-dubstep masterpiece, We’re New Here (2010), featuring the late Gil Scott-Heron.

Certainly, that time spent on other projects shows in Smith’s sonic accuracy, be it a sinuous rush of steel drums on “Reunion,” the Massive Attack-percussion of “Missing” or the slight house beat on “Sunset.” The details come in small amounts, but the influence is there and the meticulousness is enthralling.


Julijana Capone is a writer for the Spectator Tribune.  Follow her on Twitter at @JulijanaCapone

For more, follow us on Twitter: @SpectatorTrib