The xx "I See You": A Review

In the intro to their first, self titled album, The xx introduced a new sound that would become their staple. This slow tempoed, indie pop sound with its iconic guitar lines and almost spoken vocals continued through their second album. Now four years after Coexist, The xx has finally released their third album, I See You. This album abandons The xx’s typical “formula” to experiment with a new range of styles.

I See You seems to be a consideration of the band’s past norms and relationships, hence the reflective album cover. The making of this album feels much more deliberate and self aware, whereas their previous music feels free formed and natural. In the new songs, the components of the old sound are deconstructed and arranged in a more methodical way. If The xx’s music is a representation of themselves, their previous work embodies their subconscious and their new a premeditated consciousness.

“Dangerous,” the first song that appears on I See You, tosses the customary guitar intros and replaces them with the sounds of multiple trumpets. This song and others such as “Test Me” incorporate new instruments and synthetic sounds so that the music of this album cannot be performed completely live as the previous albums were. This in itself is not catastrophic, but the small alterations to what is expected of the band amount to form something that feels foreign and almost uncomfortable. The first two albums, xx and Coexist, were relaxed and brought about vivid emotions and imagery. However, I See You trades this depth for more catchy pop vibes. “I Dare You,” “Say Something Loving,” and “Lips” especially stray into a more commonplace, upbeat genre. That said, there are songs toward the middle of the album, “Performance,” “A Violent Noise,” and “Replica,” where The xx’s characteristic style permeates.

The xx’s new sound that arises in I See You is not terrible by any means; standing alone these songs are exceptional. The band has a record, however, of more idiosyncratic and moving music. This album does not really meet the high expectations set by The xx’s previous work.

If you're willing to put this aside, check out The xx’s tour (they’re coming to Boston Calling!). They will play a mix of music from their albums, so there will be music to satisfy all fans of the band whether accepting off the new album or not.

text: kailey boucher
visual: the xx
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