Three personas, one breathtaking vision.
On a basic level of mood and aesthetic, The xx's highly anticipated second studio album is the logical progression of its 2009 predecessor. Coexist's cover shares the same basic design of The xx's, only replacing a black background with white, and a white interior with a burst of color. What might seem like a simple cosmetic update for some acts is deeply emblematic of the subtle progress Oliver Sim, Romy Madley Croft, and Jamie "xx" Smith have made over the past three years. Where their 2009 debut opened with two minutes of mood-setting instrumentation, Coexist opens with "Angels," a soul-bearing tale of longing and devotion sung completely by Croft. Fans and critics had spoken of The xx's reverence for soothing, downtempo R&B from the act's beginning, though such aspirations had never before been this fully realized. Croft and Sim duet in some fashion over most of Coexist's following tracks, subtly making strides as both a vocal team and singular personas. Production-wise, sound manipulator Jamie xx also makes his presence felt more strongly this time around. Although the budding solo star (who turned heads last year with his reworking of Gil Scott Heron's closing statement I'm New Here) is never heard vocally, Coexist's skittering, contortionist beats ( see "Try" and "Swept Away") serve as persistent reminders of The xx's compelling final third. The trio's artistic vision was so deeply consummated on their opening statement that it seems almost futile to compare Coexist like most other follow-ups. But as a singular work, it showcases the progression of an act who continue to prove they're every bit as essential as many first hoped.
|Angels (Live at Bestival 2012)|