Almost eight years have passed since their massively influential self-titled album came out, but the British trio The xx doesn’t seem to look back. Their newest, I See You, takes yet another different direction and, quite frankly, this is the best decision they could make.
Shift in styles isn’t that drastic, though. There are some moments that, maybe do not sound like they could be taken straight from xx or Coexist, definitely recall The xx’s previous material. Obviously lots of new elements are added, because the band hardly repeats themselves. Performance for example has a similar bassline and vibe to Stars, yet additional violins are added and Romy Madley Croft’s vocal delivery is way more emotional than it ever was. Slow jam Replica on the other hand resembles Jamie’s early single Far Nearer as well as In Colour’s Obvs, but compared to those two, it’s rather quiet and apologetic.
The last time I’ve heard something as straightforward and elegant, but at the same time quite experimental was Jessie Ware’s Devotion, and in fact both records are strangely similar. UK garage influences – check (Dangerous), striking samples – check (On Hold, Say Something Loving, Lips), discussing personal issues – check (Brave for You). But unlike Devotion, I See You feels intimate.
The xx have always been fully aware of what they were doing, but despite that, they make a few missteps every now and then. Bland A Violent Noise sits awkwardly between album’s two most honest songs and Test Me, forgettable closing track, feels uneventful. But even with that, I See You is definitely a return to form.