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After much hype, the critically acclaimed indie trio, The xx, released their third album, ‘I See You’ on the unlucky Friday 13th. However, it seems that The xx don’t need to rely on luck to bring them success, as the (almost) 5 year wait for this record has certainly been worth it. During this period, the band pursued solo projects and returned to the studio with fresh ideas and new influences to draw upon, unwilling to conform to any expectations of what their album should sound like.
The first striking difference between ‘I See You’ and their previous albums is the wider range of instrumentation. The opening track ‘Dangerous’ begins with bold fanfares, which reminded me of ‘Send Them Off!’ from Bastille’s latest release. As well as this, Oliver and Romy’s vocals are much clearer on this album, perhaps reflecting the openness of this record in terms of its lyrical content, title and album cover, which is a mirrored surface debossed with their trademark ‘X’ logo.
Surprisingly, some of the tracks on this album are even danceable. Such as the lead single ‘On Hold’, which has been well received by fans and critics alike, with the track getting a lot of airplay on BBC Radio 1. This song perfectly demonstrates the dynamics between each of the band members, as Romy and Oliver sing as if they are having a conversation and at times reiterate the same lyrics to emphasise them. A standout track is ‘Lips’ which begins with eerie, harmonic vocals with an electronic backdrop that could belong in an underground nightclub. Suddenly, the song is dispersed with drums sounding like bongos. It’s this sonic variety that makes ‘I See You’ a captivating listen and it’s clear that Jamie xx brought the vitality of his record ‘In Colour’ to the production of this album.
Despite the more upbeat nature of this album, it hasn’t lost the traditional ‘moodiness’ of their previous work. Romy’s vocals are always emotional and tender, no matter what the subject matter is, and the positioning of softer tracks such as ‘A Violent Noise’ and ‘Performance’ at the centre of the record ensures that the latter part of the album doesn’t trail off down a depressing tangent.
In fact, the end of the album is more confrontational than depressing. Even from the song titles, this is clear. ‘I Dare You’ and ‘Test Me’ deal with themes of persuasion and abusive relationships, whereas tracks such as ‘Replica’ address the difficulty of maintaining your individuality in a relationship and ‘Brave For You’ tackles the ways in which relationships can give you a newfound sense of confidence. The xx have created a diverse and bold album which showcases their considerable artistic evolution whilst also speaking to the insecure and breeding positivity through relatable, empathetic lyrics.