The XX are one of the few ‘indie’ bands this decade that have been trying to create something that isn’t a blatant rip off Arctic Monkeys early work. They have, thus far, come out with two stylishly glum records which saw them utilise the great chemistry between the vocals of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Simm.
In 2015 the band’s drummer, Jamie XX, enjoyed a substantial amount of commercial and critical success with his debut solo album In Colour; a great record whose only weak moments came in the form of his XX counterpart’s contributions. Their downhearted vocals didn’t compliment the record’s bright production, resulting in uninteresting vocal performances. This same problem continues on to this third Full Length XX record I See You.
This is by no means a bad album; at times it’s highly enjoyable. Opening track ‘Dangerous’ features an infectious and fun house influenced beat, and while the vocal harmonies aren’t amazing, they sound better here than a lot of the cuts on the project. Lead single, ‘On Hold’, is a brilliant example of Jamie XX’s ability of using vocal samples perfectly to compliment a beat, while the chorus is the cherry on top of a really well-crafted dance song. It features a guitar line that feels almost Siouxsie and The Banshees-esque.
The weaker moments come when the band attempt slower ballads. The likes of ‘Brave For You’ and ‘Performance’, while displaying interesting lyrical content, fail to live up to similar songs in the XX’s discography such as Coexist track, ‘Angels’.
‘Say Something Loving’ samples ‘Do You Feel It’ by the Alessi Brothers, but as nice as the sample sounds it doesn’t really add much to the track. The shoegaze influenced guitar riff at the start of the track is the most interesting part, but it’s criminally underused.
‘I Dare You’ is probably the best track here; the instrumental build up on the verses really pays off when the song reaches its pretty chorus, but even on this track the vocal performance could be better.
I See You isn’t the best, but it’s easy to appreciate; it’s still ten times better than most records this genre has to offer. The innovative production of Jamie XX is a breath of fresh air but it’s hard to imagine this album being as popular as In Colour or the band’s previous LPs. Due to the fusing of somber vocals and the party ready production it’s difficult to see which key demographic this will appeal to. However, if this album does manage to satisfy its audience, The XX will surely find themselves headlining some major festivals later on in the year.
I See You is out now via Young Turks.
(Words: Aimee Armstrong)