The xx’s latest album Coexist was one of the most anticipated sophomore albums on the indie music scene in 2012. They quietly slipped into everyone’s radar with their self-titled debut album in 2009 and promptly exploded into popularity. Their first album made it onto Rolling Stone’s list of best debut albums of all time and got a high score for “best new music” on Pitchfork.
According to Metacritic, Coexist was inspired by club music the group often heard while on tour. After the debut album’s quiet tone, soft harmonies and subtle electronic accents, club music seems like a vastly different bag when it comes to inspiration for this band. But the album stays true to form and delivers. While some tracks more clearly contain the house music influence, overall the album is similar enough to its predecessor so as to keep with the essence of the band’s soft romance for fans but also different enough that it keeps things interesting.
The top tracks of the album include its first single, “Angels,” as well as “Try” and “Reunion.” “Angels” has all the subtle sounds and love-themed lyricism we are familiar with from The xx. “And with words unspoken/ a silent devotion/ I know you know what I mean/ And the end is unknown/ But I think I’m ready/ As long as you’re with me.” As Romy Madley Croft softly croons about being in love with someone, it goes beyond an image of love. It becomes a feeling, a sensation that is very real to anyone who has ever been in love.
“Reunion” is a treat. It’s one of the most dynamic songs on the album with fantastic instrumentation and lyricism. The use of steel drums and guitar together is an unexpected twist, but it works. The xx manages to make even the cheery sound of steel drums fit their lovelorn lyricism and tone. But the song is not altogether sad; like most of their music, love and pain are delicately intertwined. “Reunion’s” lyrics go back and forth between wanting to return to a past love and wanting to leave it behind. “If I wait too long/I’ll lose you from my sight/ Maybe tonight/ I could stop dreaming/ And start believing in forever and ever/ And ever and ever again/ Reunion/ Reunion/ Never, not ever/ Never, not ever again.” As the two lovers reunite, they remember everything they had and want to reignite the passion they used to have. But new lovers come between them, and the love between them seems impossible to revive. The feeling dies.
“Try” is another standout track. Its electronic sound is of a different strand for this band, but it fits with their overall sound and the tone of the album. The lyrics delve into having a burning desire for someone: “You know the way/ I can’t resist you/ I said to myself I’d try/ Why do we waste time/ Hiding it inside/ I want you to be mine.” The vocals on this track are tinged with a bittersweet tone, reflecting the theme for most of the album. Everything is a quiet love letter.
“Swept Away“ is one of the tracks where the club influence is more easily heard, but overall the album sticks to the quiet, subtle love songs we have come to expect from The xx. Coexist involves more dynamic sounds, from unusual instrumentation to mesmerizing electronic beats, than its predecessor. Its lyrics are emotional without being too loud. It’s a tender love album, and it reflects an evolved sound from The xx. Overall, they have grown in a fantastic way.
Listen to the album single “Angels“ below.