The xx’s I See You: What You Need To Know
It has been more than four years since The xx unleashed their 2012 sophomore album Coexist, but this week the group return with their third full-length offering, I See You, which the band have promised is a “completely different concept” to their first two records.
The album arrives in stores today on CD and on two vinyl versions (you can preview and purchase it on the right-hand side of this page), here’s everything you need to know…
A little background…
After touring Coexist in 2012 and a series of mini-festival gigs in early 2013 under the banner Night + Day, taking the shows to several cities including London, Lisbon & Berlin, the trio were said to be back in the studio working on a third album as far back as 2014. Various side projects have intervened in the meantime however, including the 2015 release of a Jamie xx solo debut, In Colour. The xx frontman & producer later stated that his work on the solo record had “definitely informed” what the group were doing on their third album.
It wasn’t until November last year that the trio broke their silence, releasing the lead-off single ‘Hold On’ and announcing a January release for their third album.
Who’s producing it?
Jamie xx and regular collaborator Rodaidh McDonald are handling the production between them as usual.
Any special guests?
Nope, it’s just the three of them, although single ‘Hold On’ on does use a sample from a track by from Hall & Oates.
What does it sound like?
The first thing that strikes you is how much more expansive the new tracks sound compared to the minimalist ethos employed on their first two albums. That’s not to say the songs are stuffed with layers of sound for the sake of it; it’s lush, but restrained and there’s still that familiar sense of space.
Of the singles released so far, ‘Say Something Loving’ is good example of the range of influences on offer here, its shimmering vocals and retro synths underpinned with throbbing, percussive rhythms, conjuring up flashes of everything from the Beach Boys and Sade to Ultravox and Berlin. ‘On Hold’ is almost like a bridge from the last album to this one; it’s a steady build from its hushed opening and almost a full minute before the tune lapses into a shuffling groove that feels more like the xx of earlier years.
Lyrically, it soon becomes clear that the fractious nature of the album’s recording sessions, which appear to have taken place in fits and starts, has been taking its toll a little bit. Lyrics on ‘Replica’ seem to lament all the nights spent partying too hard, but the album’s closing number, the gospel-propelled ‘Test Me’, manages to feel like both the cause of and the cure for any hangover.
Does it deliver?
2017’s model of The xx isn’t radically different; the core elements are all there, but the four years that have passed between this and their last album have allowed their sound to evolve in a very noticeable way. It’s subtle and many of the album’s tracks are growers that take a few listens, but this is definitely a progression on Coexist, one that’s full of surprises and delights.