Thanks to a friend of mine who runs a music Web site in Orlando, I was able to get my hands on the xx’s much-anticipated second album, Coexist, before its release date in September. As an avid music listener, I’m known to take advantage of the “repeat playlist” feature until I’ve learned most—and depending who it is I’m listening to—all of the words of any new album I get.
When it comes to The xx’s first album, I am definitely guilty of a few (lot) of repeats, but with the combination of Romy Craft and Oliver Sim’s sweet and soulful duel vocals set behind Jamie Smith’s smooth indie rock-inspired instrumentals, it’s not hard to listen one, two, ten times in a row. The only drawback is obsessive repeats leads to extreme anxiety, and more importantly, high expectations for new releases. I guess that was my problem with Coexist, I loved xx so much that I had the bar set too high.
The xx released “Angels” a few weeks ago, leaving me basically drooling for more. The genuine vulnerability in Craft’s voice is enough to bring goose bumps to every part of my body. There is no denying the slow simplicity of the track, but that is what the xx is known for. Speaking in Rolling Stone, Craft comments on the style of the new album compared to their self-titled debut album, “It just sort of carries it on. It's developed, but it doesn't seem like completely a world away. I hope people will just enjoy it as a development of where we were before.”
“Development” seems too far off a term to describe what the rest of Coexist had to offer. While listening to it for the first time, I found myself constantly waiting for a sudden pick up in tempo or guitar riff introduction similar to “Crystallized” or “Basic Space,” off their first album, but it never came. With the exception of a few tracks, the rest of the album played as a glorified lullaby.
Monotonous as the first three tracks are, I was pleased when “Try” began, finally incorporating a different sort of sound, but only for a few seconds. The funky intro alludes to entering the Twilight Zone, and is repeated just enough times to keep you there.
The quirky steel drums give “Reunion” an island feel, and is easily the most original track on the album. Right around two minutes it seems as if the song is over, but they bring it back in with a steady drum beat that you can’t help but tap your foot along with.
The next track “Sunset” stays within that same drumbeat, quickly slipping back into monotony. “Tides” reminds me way too much of a slowed down version of “Islands,” with similar metrical patterns and that same dramatic ending, but just not nearly as good.
Overall, Coexist delivers the same peaceful vibes introduced on their first album—beautifully poetic lyrics and soothing sounds—but it is completely bland, free of any spec of variety. I would have friends show me remixes of tracks from xx, but it was hard to listen because the originals were so much better on their own. I don’t know if I can say the same about Coexist; I’m looking forward to a little remix action to pump some life back into the music that I love so much.
I have no doubt that Coexist will get me through many a sleepless night, but it definitely won’t be getting me from one class to another.