the xx

I See You

the xx

by Annabel Ross | January 10th, 2017 10:52:AM EST

After their brilliant 2009 debut xx, and a very good, if safe, sophomore effort in Coexist (2012), British trio the xx assert their intentions early on I See You

"Dangerous" opens with a set of horns and settles into a coltish beat, the claxons reappearing and multiplying in the chorus as Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft pursue a relationship they know they shouldn't. It's the sound of the xx moving out of their natural habitat – the shadows – and towards the more experimental, wide-ranging palette that producer Jamie "xx" Smith painted so brilliantly with on 2015's solo album In Colour.

It's in the calypso notes of "Say Something Loving", the marimba-heavy "Lips" and the liberal sampling throughout, most effectively in the sped-up snippet of Hall and Oates' "I Can't Go For That" in the album's statement-making lead single "On Hold".

Fans, fear not, it still sounds like the xx – Madley Croft and Sim's distinctive, unchanging vocals see to that, and even when Smith is referencing a grab-bag of genres, his "future garage" flourishes identify him – but their efforts to evolve are palpable without sounding laboured. And there's no need to begrudge an equal amount of classic the xx tracks such as the simply lush "Replica", bass plucked over sunshine synths and heavenly sighs. The future looks bright.

Topics: the xx
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