Written by Eli Prysant
Despite the success of their Mercury Prize-winning eponymous debut in 2009, which carried a sound one was meant to listen to in dim rooms alone late at night, The xx could have easily broken away from it. But the xx’s sophomore effort, Coexist, finds them remaining grounded in the hushed lyrics and lingering subtle melodies that were responsible for their rise to the peak of popularity in indie music.
The biggest shift present in Coexist is the introduction of a more dance-oriented theme present in band member and producer Jamie xx’s solo work during the time between the two albums. In December 2011, Jamie stated that the new xx album would be inspired by the club music that the trio had missed out on during their youth, and the final result shows this in the heavily steelpan-based backing sound that Jamie xx has shown a penchant for. Jamie’s influence can be best seen in “Swept Away,’’ as the echoing clap of the drums kicks in with the rolling bass line. It seems likely that with Jamie’s greater hand in production will help to spawn a fair amount of remixes for every song on the album, possibly even giving way to a remix series like Radiohead’s The King of Limbs remixes, which Jamie himself contributed to.
While Jamie xx’s presence is more prevalent on Coexist, the vocals of bassist Oliver Sim and guitarist Romy Madley Croft still serve as the key guide to the emotional punch of the duo’s minimalistic lyrics. Sim and Croft’s vocals complement each other well: Sim’s grounded voice delivers the weight of lyrics that Croft’s can’t due to his almost cooing conversational tone while Croft’s singing finds her holding onto the notes as if they can never be reclaimed once sung.
On “Fiction’,” Sim’s pained admission that ‘’you’re more than I can believe would ever come my way’’ is a personal truth rendered meaningless by the loss of love and is just one of the many lines that capture this feeling, which is a recurring theme throughout the course of the album. ‘’Tides’’ is one of the most uptempo songs on the album, with a piercing guitar rhythm that turns into a commanding guide through the dual vocals of Sim and Croft once the bass line comes in, finding the two yearning for the answer to “Why would you ever want to leave?” A standout on Coexist is ‘’Sunset’,” which opens with Croft lamenting the shell of a relationship once past over her slinking bass groove as Sim joins in, revealing his own sense of hurt at the denial of a former relationship’s existence that is supposedly for his own good.
Clocking in at just about a minute shorter than their debut, Coexist doesn’t find The xx diving into unfamiliar territory, but instead it finds them exploring the one they’ve already established, finding the nooks and crannies available to them without ending up walking around in circles. Avoiding the curse that is the sophomore slump, Jamie xx, Oliver Sim, and Romy Madley Croft created another embodiment of earnest emotions echoing in space that is sure to secure their spot as one of the most popular and unique indie acts in the game.
Stream the album here. Check out all the lyrics and explanations for Coexist on Stereo IQ:
The xx – Angels Lyrics
The xx – Chained Lyrics
The xx – Fiction Lyrics
The xx – Missing Lyrics
The xx – Our Song Lyrics
The xx – Reunion Lyrics
The xx – Sunset Lyrics
The xx – Swept Away Lyrics
The xx – Tides Lyrics
The xx – Try Lyrics
The xx – Unfold Lyrics