July 21, 2010

Music Review: The xx-xx.

The xx: a minimalist music approach.

Recently, I was driving when a summer shower struck.  The first few droplets careened from the heavens, finding their resting place on my windshield.  As if synchronized, The xx’s song ‘VCR’ emerged from the chaparral of my iPod’s shuffle mode.  Out of each tiny burst of water came a xylophone note.  As the intensity of the rain grew, so too did the band’s percussive melody.  Awakening from this mildly synesthetic moment, I turned on my wipers and remembered the danger of focusing on my musical windshield and not the road ahead.

The xx’s debut album, xx (2009), bleeds with sincerity.  Underscored with pulsing bass riffs (courtesy of Oliver Sim) and minimalist percussion, the band’s effort seems fully devoted to highlighting the lyrical conversation between Sim and Romy Croft (singer/guitarist).  On nearly every track, we hear her trembling confessions as Sim despondently speak/sings back his own slurred musings.  This emotional dichotomy is where the beauty of xx is born.  To the German polymath Goethe, artistic energy is created from a state of internal tension, and this is clearly the case here.  As Romy pleads on ‘Heart Skipped a Beat’, Please don’t say we’re done, When I’m not finished, Sim responds aloofly, You made it clear, You weren’t near, Near enough for me.  At other times, Sim’s complete absence speaks louder than his stolid voice ever could.  On ‘Shelter’, a rejected Croft asks forgiveness, Maybe I had said, something that was wrong, Can I make it better, with the lights turned on, with no response at all. In all of this dialogue, there seems to a singular running theme: love, pain, and sex are inherently intertwined.

This is really an album to save for those quiet days.  Those lonely drives during summer showers.  Those times when you can escape and reflect on the enduring triadic composition of romance.  xx meanders its way from percussion-laden post-rock anthems to experimental rock melodies to quaint pop ditties, exposing the musical prowess of this London trio (formerly a quartet).  They can sound like Do Make Say Think, Dirty Projectors, and Radiohead in succession, but more importantly they can sound just like The xx.  By engineering their tracks to channel these bands, and then superimposing Croft and Sim’s script, we derive deeper meaning than we were ever given by their influences.

Karthik Sonty is a recent graduate of Colby College with a penchant for philosophy, strong opinions on music, and obsession with rock-climbing.  He placates these passions by writing these musical perspectives down, infusing some philosophy, and sending them to a journal in a town called Boulder.  He has written in a broad array of media, including documents for the UN’s World Food Programme, papers for Undergraduate Symposia, and a music blog called PolarBear NeckWear.  Since he graduated, he has been trying to reconcile his idealistic urges to save the world, his youthful urges to explore the world, and practical urges to survive the world.

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