The talents of London’s The xx revolve around childhood friends Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim and Jamie Smith. Whereas the first two provide the more traditional guitar and vocal interplay the latter adds on beats. Together, they make a unique sound, with an emphasis on spare arrangements and nocturnal romanticism.
Although each track has something to offer, they do occasionally come across as too studied as if their education in Putney’s Elliott School has taught them too well to be cool and austere; Sim in particular overdoing the nonchalance for ‘Basic Space’. That said, ‘VCR’ and the majority of the album possesses plenty of heart, with songs like ‘Islands’ balancing the insouciance of the vocals with hip-hop beats. As a measure of their subtlety, ‘Shelter’ features Madley-Croft at her most vulnerable on a track which seems forever on the edge of tension but applies the restraints just when it seems the band are about to explode.
Some compare this young band to Young Marble Giants – with whom they share a taste for minimalism – but just as apparent is the melancholic charm of Everything But The Girl, who were rather partial to hip-hop themselves in their later years. Yet The xx have already developed their own identity on this stark and frequently brilliant record.
The xx MySpace
Young Marble Giants, Everything But The Girl, We Fell To Earth