Album review: The xx’s I See You is an experimental treat

British band The xx may not be a band you know, but chances are you’ve heard some of their music. Some of their songs have appeared in movies such as Project X and The Great Gatsby, and TV shows Grey’s Anatomy and Gossip Girl. Their third album, I See You, has garnered lots of popularity and has scored the band a number one spot on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums Chart.

Members Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim, and Jamie Smith (better known as the producer Jamie xx), formed the band in 2005. They released their debut, self-titled album in 2009. In 2012, they released their second album Coexist. The two albums shared some common themes of heartbreak and loss, and those themes became the backbone of The xx’s signature sound.

Bandmate and producer Jamie xx released his debut studio album In Color in May 2015; it was awesome to hear his own style of music, but also his own work featuring Oliver and Romy’s vocals. Two weeks into 2017, The xx released I See You. The single “On Hold” had an early release back in November and I remember hearing it for the first time on the radio station The Current. Upon hearing the song, I was quick to notice the completely new sound, production-wise. I could get more of a feel of Jamie’s influence and had a sense that the new album would incorporate everyone’s talents… and boy, was I right.

The song “On Hold” definitely is the more “pop-sounding” song of the album, but also has lots of layers, in terms of sound. Although it is somewhat upbeat sounding in most parts, it features The xx’s overarching theme of uncertainty in love. I, personally, thought that the song sounded a little forced, but I’m probably biased since I’m used to the “sadder” songs on their previous albums. That’s the struggle I often face when bands begin to evolve their sound.

The album, as a whole, is definitely a unique leap forward, as The xx still maintains the elements they’re known for—echoing guitar riffs and hauntingly beautiful vocals. The song “I Dare You” is one of my favorites because it pairs their familiar guitar sound with Jamie xx’s production. The lyrics are simple and the song captures the high of being in love, “Now I’m deep in it, infatuated / strong attraction, side by side and I know that you want to”.

Rounding out my favorites in the album, “Brave For You” gives the album impact. Croft wrote the song as a tribute to her parents who passed away. Lyrics like “And when I’m scared / I imagine you’re there / telling me to be brave” resonate to mean whatever the listener wants them to.

I See You is an amalgamation of lyrics and melodies with a shifting of moods throughout. This makes the whole album enthralling and, although its sound may not be something we are familiar with, it rings with a world of truth in all its complexity.

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